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India to Build Earth Observation Satellite for Armenia, Build Human Capacity

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India is to build an Earth observation satellite for Armenia, as well as train Armenian scientists in the use of the system and handling and interpreting its data, according to Indian press reports.

The agreement comes after the Indian Vice-President Hamid Ansari held talks with the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian in the Armenian capital of Yerevan.

The agreement comes as the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) has announced plans to create a joint remote earth sensing system by integrating the space- and ground-based capabilities of its member states, to include Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, by 2019.

The EAEU remote sensing project involves the creation of a commercial company that will integrate the space- and ground-based systems and provide satellite imaging to global customers. The provision of this satellite imagery will through an integrated web portal that will allow users to monitor urban and industrial areas, infrastructure and transport corridors, as well as agricultural land management applications. Not mentioned by EAEU, but presumably available, will be satellite imagery for security applications.

Russia has a variety of civilian earth observation satellites, such as its Kanopus and Resurs satellites, that it will presumably provide to the new EAEU commercial company, while Belarus operates the BKA (formerly known as Belka-2) earth observation satellite, said to be based on the Russian Kanopus earth observation satellite design. Kazakhstan operates KazEOSat-1 and -2, both built by Airbus Defence and Space, and will launch KazSTSAT, built by Surrey Satellite, sometime in 2017. Armenia and Kyrgyzstan do not operate earth observation satellites, but are presumably offering ground-based capabilities towards the EAEU project.

With the agreement between India and Armenia, however, it seems that Yerevan may acquire the orbital capability to leverage greater benefits from the EAEU remote sensing initiative. Without an Earth observation satellite Armenia would be a passive recipient of satellite imagery from its more capable EAEU partners, With an Indian-made Earth observation satellite, Yerevan will have something to offer the partners of the EAEU initiative, and so provide it with a greater say in the initiative’s policies, acquisitions, and commercial ventures.

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