Indias first commercial space situational awareness observatory, Uttarakhand
China built its own space station after it was excluded from the International Space Station, largely due to US concerns. Representational pic

India's first-ever observatory to monitor space activity to be set up in Uttarakhand

India’s first commercial space situational awareness observatory, to track objects as small as 10 cm in size orbiting the earth, will be set up in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand by Digantara, a space sector start-up.

The space situational awareness (SSA) observatory will help India track any activity in space including that of space debris and military satellites hovering over the region.
Currently, the United States is a dominant player in monitoring space debris with observatories in multiple locations and commercial companies providing additional inputs from across the world.

Anirudh Sharma, chief executive officer (CEO) of Digantara told the media that the observatory in Uttarakhand will fill the crucial gap in SSA observations in the region since there is a lack of such facilities between Australia and southern Africa.

The high-quality observations, along with those of its partner ground-based sensor network, would help improve its ability to monitor events occurring in deep space, especially in the geostationary, medium-earth, and high-earth orbits.

“With this data, it would be able to reduce the potential for collisions between satellites and other spacecraft by making more accurate predictions of their location, speed, and trajectory,” Sharma said.

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The observatory will also give India indigenous capabilities to monitor space activity over the subcontinent, he said, adding that ahead of the war in Ukraine, several Russian satellites were seen hovering over the region.

“If, for example, Chinese satellites are seen over one particular region of India for a long time, having indigenous capability to monitor such activities and not being dependent on countries like the US is a plus for India,” Sharma said.

He said India has been monitoring space objects using multi-object tracking radars and the SSA observatory will be a huge boost to the sector. Meanwhile, the company statement said that with the establishment of the observatory, Digantara will be able to supplement its space-based sensors in their mission to monitor satellites and debris in orbits ranging from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO).

“This will also bring indigenous capabilities to the nation for both military and civilian applications,” said the statement.

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There is an increasing need for efficient collision avoidance systems in highly congested orbital regions like low earth orbit and geosynchronous earth orbit. The addition of the new observatory will be a part of Digantara’s network of observational facilities and was expected to work in tandem with the currently planned constellation of space-based sensors.

“This will improve the effectiveness of tracking and identifying pre-existing resident space objects (RSO), and will result in the creation of a hybrid data pool that will serve both the commercial and the defence sectors of the space industry,” Sharma said.

“We are proud to support Digantara’s vision and plans in establishing India’s first dedicated Space Situational Awareness (SSA) observatories in Uttarakhand,” said Sudhir Nautiyal, director, industries in Uttarakhand government.

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