On Thursday 22 August, on the occasion of the state visit to France of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an agreement signed by CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall and Sivan K, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was officially announced to start development and production of a constellation of satellites on which studies have been underway since President Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to India in March 2018.
This constellation carrying telecommunications (Automatic Identification System, AIS) and radar and optical remote-sensing instruments will constitute the first space-based system in the world capable of tracking ships continuously. The satellites will be operated jointly by France and India to monitor ships in the Indian Ocean.
The system will cover a wide belt around the globe, benefiting a broad range of French economic interests. With a revisit capability making it possible to task acquisitions several times a day, it will also be able to detect oil slicks and trace their origin.
This new step is a further boost for the already significant and wide-ranging space partnership between France and India. CNES and ISRO have developed, built and are jointly operating several satellites that are serving precious applications for food security (monsoon forecasting), water resource management and climate research. An infrared climate-monitoring satellite is in the study phase and India’s next oceanography satellite will be carrying a CNES Argos instrument into orbit in 2020.
The flight surgeons who will be responsible for India’s future astronauts are currently training in France and the active contribution of French-Indian space programmes to tackling climate change is of prime importance, as illustrated by India’s involvement in the Space Climate Observatory (SCO) for which the founding declaration was signed at this year’s Paris Air Show in the presence of President Macron.
After the official announcement, Jean-Yves Le Gall commented: “CNES’s and ISRO’s teams are both very proud to see, in the presence of President Macron and Prime Minister Modi, this new step forward in our cooperation in space. Our technologies today occupy an unprecedented place in the world economy and it is through large-scale international partnership projects like these that we will promote and develop our excellence.”