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India Launches Earth Observation Satellite for Ocean Monitoring

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has launched nine satellites, including eight nanosatellites, into space from the first launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh.

The 44-metre-long rocket’s primary payload is the Earth Observation Satellite-6 (EOS-6) or Oceansat-3, a third-generation satellite to monitor oceans. It is a follow up to OceanSat-1 or IRS-P4 and OceanSat-2 launched in 1999 and 2009, respectively. Oceansat-3 will provide data about ocean colour, sea surface temperature, and wind vector data for oceanography, climatology, and meteorological applications.

The Oceansat-3 was placed in the polar orbit at a height of about 740 kilometres above sea level. While it weighs approximately 1,100 kilogrammes, which is only slightly heavier than Oceansat-1, for the first time in this series, it houses three ocean observing sensors. These include an Ocean Colour Monitor (OCM-3), Sea Surface Temperature Monitor (SSTM), and Ku-Band scatterometer (SCAT-3). There is also an ARGOS payload, a press release mentioned.

The OCM-3, with a high signal-to-noise ratio, is expected to improve accuracy in the daily monitoring of phytoplankton. This has a wide range of operational and research applications including fishery resource management, ocean carbon uptake, harmful algal bloom alerts, and climate studies. The SSTM will provide ocean surface temperature, which is a critical ocean parameter to provide various forecasts ranging from fish aggregation to cyclone genesis and movement. Temperature is a key parameter required to monitor the health of the coral reefs, and if needed, to provide coral bleaching alerts. The Ku-Band Pencil beam scatterometre will provide a high-resolution wind vector (speed and direction) at the ocean surface, which will be useful for seafarers, including fishermen and shipping companies. Data regarding temperature and wind is also particularly important for ocean and weather models to improve their forecast accuracies.

ARGOS is a communication payload jointly developed with France and it is used for low-power (energy-efficient) communications including marine robotic floats (Argo floats), fish-tags, drifters, and distress alert devices valuable in search and rescue operations.

The Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Science and Technology, Jitendra Singh, stated that ISRO will continue to maintain the orbit of the satellite and its standard procedures for data reception and archiving. Major operational users of this satellite include Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoEs) institutions such as the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) and the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF).

INCOIS has also established a state-of-the-art satellite data reception ground station within its campus with technical support from the National Remote Sensing Centre (ISRO-NRSC). Singh asserted that ocean observations such as this will serve as a solid foundation for India’s blue economy and polar region policies. A representative from MoES noted that the launch of Oceansat-3 is significant as it is the first major ocean satellite launch from India since the initiation of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (UNDOSSD, 2021-2030).

The Indian Space Research Organisation is the national space agency of India, headquartered in Bengaluru. It operates under the Department of Space, which is overseen by the country’s Prime Minister.

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