PSLV-C48/RISAT-2BR1: Everything you should know about RISAT-2BR1 and the nine commercial payloads part of today's launch

India's RISAT-2BR1, along with many of the other earth observation satellites part of this launch, can carry out radar surveillance independent of weather conditions in a region.

On 11 December, the Indian Space Research Organisation will launch India's newest defense satellite RISAT-2BR1, along with a string of commercial small satellites for ISRO's international clients, through a commercial arrangement with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL). The launch is planned for 3.25 pm on 11 December, when ISRO will launch the ten satellites on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (specifically, the PSLV-C48).

This will be the 50th launch of the PSLV, and will take place from the First Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. It will also be the second time that the PSLV is flown in the 'QL' configuration (with four strap-on motors).

Here's everything we know so far about the various payloads (satellites) that will be launched on this mission.

India's RISAT-2BR1

The RISAT-2BR1 satellite is India's  radar imaging and earth observation satellite. Weighing about 628 kg, the satellite will be placed in a low-earth orbit of 576 km, at an inclination of 37 degree.

RISAT-2BR1 comes with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) capabilities, which will give it superior, all-weather capabilities where radar surveillance is concerned.

"The RISAT-2BR1 uses SAR that can penetrate clouds and observe images on the ground with a ground sampling distance of barely 35 cms," said Rajendra Prasad, chief business officer, Satellize (formerly Exseed Space).

RISAT-2B separating from the payload fairing of the PSLV-C46 rocket. Image: DD National/ISRO

RISAT-2B separating from the payload fairing of the PSLV-C46 rocket. Image: DD National/ISRO

Israel's Duchifat 3

Three youngsters from an Israeli school have travelled to India to see a satellite designed and built by them — the 'Duchifat 3' — being launched on the PSLV-C48 mission by ISRO. Duchifat 3 is the third in the series of Israeli student-made satellites, built in a joint effort by students of Herzliya Science Center and Sha’ar HaNegev High School students, the satellite is designed to serve children from across the country to “observe the Earth”.

“It is a photo satellite used for ecological research of Earth from space. The size of the satellite is 10x10x30 cm (3U) and it weighs 2.3 kg. The students worked for almost two and a half years to build it. The satellite will be of good help to agriculturists,” one of the donors for the project and head of ICA Foundation Zeev Miller told PTI.

Japan’s QPS-SAR

The PSLV-C48 mission will feature a revolutionary satellite test technology by Japan, in the QPS-SAR microsatellite. The 100-kg synthetic aperture radar (SAR) microsatellite is looking to provide all-weather, 24/7 earth observation services for hire. These satellites offer remote surveillance and "near real-time" views of Earth from space.

The satellite, designed and built by the QPS Institute (iQPS) — precursors for a planned constellation of 36 satellites. According to Gunter's Space Page, the satellite can distinguish objects that are a metre-long, and will be capable of identifying cars on the road.

The two demonstration QPS-SAR satellites designed by iQPS will be launched by ISRO in PSLV missions in 2019 and 2020.

Japanese satellite venture iQPS plans to capture radar imagery of our entire planet every 10 minutes — a

Japanese satellite venture iQPS plans to capture radar imagery of our entire planet every 10 minutes — a "real-time Google Maps" if you will. Image: iQPS

Italy's Tyvak 0092/COMMTRAIL

The COMMTRAIL satellite, which also goes by the manufacturer-provided designation 'Tyvak 0092', is a cubesat designed by Tyvak – an end-to-end satellite manufacturing service based in California. The COMMTRAIL cubesat will demonstrate Search & Rescue capabilities for Italy.

COMMTRAIL is a satellite that will serve as a demonstration and validation for a machine-to-machine communication technology that can acquire signals from ground terminals and downlink to ground stations, devoted to search-and-rescue missions. The payload is a Ultra-High-Frequency (UHF) software-defined radio (SDR) equipped with a customized deployable helix antenna.


USA's Tyvak 012/Pathfinder Tech Demo

The Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator, which also goes by the manufacturer-provided designation 'Tyvak 0129', is a cubesat tech demonstration designed by Tyvak – an end-to-end satellite manufacturing service based in California. It will put to test a variety of improvements to the performance and efficiency of Tyvak's cubesat systems.

The main goal of the mission is to test a new micro-electrospray thruster built by Busek Space Propulsion Systems.

The satellite is the first in a series of pathfinding missions by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, which is operated by the NASA Ames Research Centre in California's Silicon Valley.


A group of four 'LEMUR' minisatellites will also be launched on the PSLV-C48 mission, built and designed by Spire Global, a US-based satellite manufacturer. The LEMURs are part of a network of satellites that have automatic identification systems (AIS) that come in handy for a variety of civil and military applications.

The four satellites being launched on the PSLV-C48 mission will join an existing constellation of minisatellites (other LEMURs) already in orbit. The LEMURs will add to Spire's capabilities in meteorology as well as ship-traffic monitoring.

The Lemur-2 cubesat in its testing phase. Image: Spire

The Lemur-2 cubesat in its testing phase. Image: Spire


1HOPSAT (or, the 1st-generation High Optical Performance Satellite, expanded) is a satellite part of an earth observation constellation designed by Hera Systems, a California-based satellite startup. The HOPSATs are built based on a previously-tested prototype (1HOPSat TD). Each of these HOPSATs will house an imaging telescope to record images and video of customer-specified regions of the Earth at sub-meter ground resolution. The visuals, once recorded, will be relayed to Earth via ground stations.

A period of time after the satellite is deployed by PSLV-C48, solar panels and antennas will deploy, and the first imaging and communications will begin. The satellites will be powered by electric propulsion.

1HOPSAT is the first in a series of eight initial satellite launches, where it will be the secondary payload, in launch missions in 2020-2021, and will be placed in a 600-km-orbit.

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