India joins the battle for orbital space

Artist's impression of RISAT-2
Artist's impression of RISAT-2

India has launched its first major military surveillance satellite, RISAT-2, a platform for high-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), which puts it up there with the kind of things that the USA were launching over 10 years ago. Of course although, as The Times of India comment shows, being part of the club of orbital space powers is a consideration, the main motivations are most immediately, dealing with the threat of Pakistani Islamic extremists, and in the long term, regional competition with China, which has its own active satellite launch (and satellite-killing) program. One thing which about which the paper is entirely correct is that Indian high tech is more advanced than China’s and this home-grown satellite marks a small but significant shift in global surveillance power towards India. Whether, for a country still struggling with massive poverty and inequality, it is what anyone ‘needs’ or is any more than an expensive strategic symbol is another question.