South Asian satellite
The fully integrated GSLV-F06 carrying GSAT-9 at the second launch pad. [Representational Image]ISRO official website

The total number of satellites that are being used for military purposes has gone up to 13 following the successful launch of the Cartosat-2E satellite that has surveillance capabilities, a source from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was quoted as saying.

The satellites, which can be used for surveillance and mapping border areas, are essentially used to keep vigilance on enemies on land and sea. The recently launched Cartosat-2 series spacecraft is capable of providing scene-specific spot imagery. It can accurately spot objects within a square of 0.6 metre by 0.6 metre.

"Most of these remote-sensing satellites are placed in the near-earth orbit. Placing these satellites at the sun-synchronous polar orbit (about 200-1,200 km above the Earth's surface) helps in the better scanning of the earth. However, some of these satellites have also been put in the geo orbit," the source was quoted by the Times of India as saying. 

"The 13 satellites used by the military for surveillance include Cartosat 1 and 2 series and Risat-1 and Risat-2," the source added.

The Indian Navy uses GSAT-7 for real-time communication among its warships, submarines, aircraft and land systems. India is also capable of launching the anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) designed to destroy enemy satellites. US, China and Russia are the only countries known to have developed such weapons.

Director of Space Applications Centre Tapan Misra was quoted by TOI as saying that "ISRO follows international norms, which prohibit member space agencies from militarising outer space."

"Technological capabilities indigenously evolved in the process of development of Agni-V long-range ballistic missile and proven through series of repeated successful tests can be readily employed for 'satellite launch on demand' if needed," Ravi Gupta, defence technology expert and former director (public interface) at the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), told the daily while explaining how India's ballistic missile can also be used as a satellite launcher when needed.

Gupta said: "Similarly, these technologies, combined with technologies developed for the indigenous ballistic missile defence system, if needed, can be used for developing an anti-satellite weapon system. It's a matter of putting the available indigenous technologies for a required application."

He added: "The time of face-to-face warfare is nearly gone. Technologies are making modern warfare more or less contactless and more and more dependent on surveillance and remote sensing, real-time situational awareness, information processing and communication. Satellites have, therefore, emerged as strategic assets playing a critical role in the outcome of war, making the spatial technological abilities not just important but a game changer."