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ISRO to commission new multi object tracking radar (MOTR) to trace space debris

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The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is close to commissioning its new, home-made radar system that is capable of tracking several objects at the same time.

The Indian space agency is set to test its sophisticated, indigenously-built, multi-object tracking radar (MOTR) on a rocket flight next month while formal commissioning is expected to take three months time.

Uses of the MOTR :

  • It will give ISRO the capability to better handle future space missions.
  • To track space debris.
  • It will help the re-entry of modules back into the earth’s atmosphere.
  • The radar could see objects as small as half a square meter in size, up to 1,000 km away.
  • It will help to protect satellites in the ‘low earth orbit’ region (mainly, remote sensing satellites) from being hit by debris.
  • Less sophisticated versions of this radar could be used by airports.

Timeline :

  • The project was approved in August 2012
  • The system will be tested during the next PSLV rocket launch in June,2015
  • Its commissioning could take three more months.

Project’s Budget:

  • ISRO built it for Rs. 245 crore, without any dedicated manpower.
  • The software developed in-house would be worth another Rs. 100 crore.
  • But it would cost Rs. 800 crore to buy a radar of comparable capabilities from the international market.

MOTR :

  • MOTR is a stationary, 12-metre-long, 8-metre-tall rectangular radar that contains 4,068 individual radiating elements.
  • It weighs 35 tonne.
  • All these emit radio-frequency waves that combine to form a single beam. The beam can be electronically steered so that the a third of the sky is scanned.
  • Since the radar’s base can be rotated to three positions, the entire sky can be covered.

Made In India :

  • All but the dome that covers the whole system were designed by ISRO and made by Indian industry.
  • The dome had to be imported because there was no Indian supplier who could assure ‘RF transparency’.
  • ISRO today uses NASA’s debris data for the purpose relating to space debris. Now the data from the radar will supplement NASA data to enhance ISRO’s capacity to protect satellites.

Other companies in the world have the capability to build radars :

US based Companies :

  • Raythaeon
  • Northrop Grummer
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Canada : Thales
  • Isreal : Elta
  • Japan  : NEC