Until today, NASA and ISRO never spoke to each other, now they are all said to make the world’s costliest satellite!

 Due to sanctions, America’s space agency NASA and India’s ISRO were almost forbidden to talk to each other. But that has changed now and how! The two space agencies are jointly making a satellite called NISAR that will monitor the Earth.

NISAR or the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite could be the world’s most expensive Earth imaging satellite and will cost the two countries over $1.5 billion.

The NISAR satellite will be launched in 2021 from India using the Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). This marks a significant moment in Indo-US partnership.

Paul A Rosen is one of the scientists working on the NISAR satellite project. He said, “NISAR is the first big collaboration between NASA and ISRO, certainly on RADAR but just in general as well. This is two frequency RADAR, it is an L-band 24 centimetre RADAR and S-band 13 centimetre. S-band is being built by ISRO and L-band by NASA. It is a major collaboration both in terms of the technical building of the satellite as well as working together across the Pacific between India and US.”

He added, “We are going to be making snap shots of the Earth every week using these two radars that gives us a time lapse image of the motion of the tectonic plates, of the ice sheets, of the changes in vegetation over land in agriculture and forests. So, what we are doing is looking at time variability of the Earth over the life of the mission to understand how disasters evolve, how earthquakes occur, how volcanoes occur, how the ice sheets are changing and affecting sea level rise, and how forest fires and changes in the forest cover affect the atmosphere. It is very relevant to what society cares about which is changes in our climate, changes in our environment and how it affects society.”

ISRO is one of the fastest growing space agencies in the world. Its recent accomplishments including the successful Mars mission and launching over a hundred satellites in one go stunned the world. It began recognising India’s capability in the field.

NASA collaborating with ISRO shows that it too accepts India’s growing might in this field even when ISRO is slowly but surely challenging America’s supremacy in space research and exploration.

Vinayak Jain