A new tool for Indian Ocean marine science is launched

India launched a second satellite to study the Indian Ocean a couple of weeks ago, the application of which is of interest to the countries of East Africa and Western Indian Ocean. The Oceansat-2 will monitor the interaction between oceans and the atmosphere as part of climate studies, according to the country’s space agency.

The satellite, launched from India’s southeast coast, carried six nanosatellites from European universities as auxiliary payloads, said the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). It also is equipped with two solar panels projecting from its sides, for generating power and charging batteries.

The country started its space programme in 1963, and has since designed, built and launched its own satellites into space. India says it has the world’s largest constellation of remote-sensing satellites: 16, including Oceansat-2. They produce images for uses such as agriculture, rural development, water resources, forestry and disaster management.

The Oceansat-2 is the second in the series of Indian Remote Sensing satellites dedicated to ocean research. The satellite will provide continuity to the applications of Oceansat-1, which was launched in 1999. With a design life of five years Oceansat-2 continues this service. According to Indian sources Oceansat-1 revolutionized fish zone prediction and the information it gave fishermen through rural societies helped to double fishing catches.

Data from Oceansat-2, along with information from other Indian remote sensing satellites (IRSs), are in demand internationally. India says Oceansat-2 is one of the few international missions that exclusively study marine atmosphere, coastal climate and wind speed.

Oceansat-2 weighs 960kgs and is carrying three devices: the Ocean Colour Monitor, a Microwave Scatterometer which helps in tracking the onset of the monsoon by measuring the wind speed over the surface of the ocean and a ROSA which is a GPS receiver for atmospheric sounding.

The main objectives of OceanSat-2 are to study surface winds and ocean surface, observation of chlorophyll concentrations, monitoring of phytoplankton blooms, study of atmospheric particles and suspended sediments in the water. The major applications of data from Oceansat-2, say Indian scientists are identification of fishing zones, sea state forecasting, coastal zone studies and inputs for weather forecasting and climatic studies.

All data gathered will be made available to the global scientific community in six months. Certainly, the countries of the region especially the island states can benefit from the information. Remote sensing data from satellites above the Indian Ocean are extremely important for a country such Seychelles with many islands and a large Exclusive Economic Zone, with an economy and society dependant on fisheries, and a population which is almost exclusively coastal.