Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Something To Watch Over Us

Finally after suffering launch delays due to problems with the satellite launching company, RazakSAT should finally find its orbit after the launch on 21 April 2009. RazakSAT, named after the second Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Abdul Razak, is a mini class satellite weighing 180kg and the first remote sensing satellite in the world to be orbiting the equator. RazakSAT will orbit at an altitude of 685km after it takes off from its launch pad at Kwajalein Island in the Marshall Islands and will subsequently orbit the equator every 100 minutes and snap images of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. African countries covered include Somalia, Rwanda and Nigeria. Even South America would be on the radar. The equatorial orbiting satellite would enable observations of the earth’s surface to be made more often compared with a polar orbiting satellite, that is, RazakSAT can revisit the same spot four to six times a day during daylight although it may not be possible to get a nadir view of regions near 9 degrees north or south for up to 25 days. Even so, its orbit will carry it over some portion of Malaysia 14 times a day.

Inverted position of the RazakSat with panels folded to the side. Note the camera at one end

RazakSAT is equipped with a medium-sized aperture camera (MAC), a pushbroom camera with 5 linear detectors (1 panchromatic, 4 multi-spectral) to capture high resolution images of the Earth along the near equatorial orbit. The 2.5mm Medium Sized Aperture Camera on the satellite has a ground sampling distance of 2.5m (black and white or panchromatic) and 5m (colour or multi-spectral) and at the nominal altitude of 685 km, MAC has a swath width of 20 km. The size resolution is said to be similar in clarity as looking at a container truck from space. Thus RazakSAT is expected to provide high resolution images of Malaysia that can be applied to land management, resource development and conservation, forestry, fish migration and security. It is the last application that really interest me as now Malaysia can secure its own geospatial information security without relying on third parties. And although it has been reported that for less than RM2,000, you can now have a satellite image of your neighbourhood or a place of interest, Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency director general Darus Ahmad has said that a committee comprising government agencies such as the military and police would vet requests for “sensitive” images. Nonetheless just imagine for yourself the military applications RazakSAT can provide for the defence sector of our country. The availability of the Malaysian home grown high resolution satellite, the RazakSAT stands not only to benefit the country in terms of better management and utilisation of resources but also is something to watch over us.

1 comment:

akutaktau said...

Just to add. On the day RazakSat was launched from Kwajalein, Malaysian can view the launching live via web-casting. I am the one who did the co-ordination for the live streaming from Kwajalein together with people from Angkasa. Anyway, I am very proud to hear what is the technology that RazakSat had compared to TiungSat. It was amazing.