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India And France To Jointly Build Maritime Domain Awareness Satellites Starting In 2019

The island of Mauritius in the Western Indian Ocean. Photograph courtesy of NASA.

Following the landmark space cooperation agreement signed between India and France, both countries will start work on building joint maritime surveillance satellites in 2019, according to an official from the French national space agency, the Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES).

The satellites will be designed to cover areas ranging from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean, as well as portions of the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, considering the interests of both countries, an official from CNES was quoted as saying in a report published in The Economic Times. Planning for this collaborative project has included input from all stakeholders, including the maritime security agencies of both countries.

In March, India and France unveiled a joint vision for space, resolving to strengthen cooperation between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and CNES. According to its mission statement, its goals included “…  [to] work together for design and development of joint products and techniques, including those involving Automatic Identification System, to monitor and protect assets in land and sea. In particular, both sides will pursue the study of a constellation of satellites for maritime surveillance.”

The statement also mentions the goal of launching a constellation of maritime surveillance satellites with a prime focus on the Indian Ocean, a region critical to the strategic interests of India and France, and which is witnessing an increased presence from China. Several crucial Sea Lanes of Communications pass through the region as well.

“The Indian Ocean is critical in safeguarding interests of both India and France,” the same CNES is quoted as saying. “On our part, we have several areas territories in the Indian, Pacific Ocean and in the tropical region. The satellites will be designed to serve the purpose.”

The official added that the purpose of this constellation is monitoring sea traffic management, according to The Economic Times.

India and France have been cooperating in space research and experiments for six decades. Both countries have also been working on the aspect of climate monitoring on the joint missions Megha-Tropiques and Saral-Altika, and the ongoing studies of the Trishna satellite for land Infrared monitoring and the OceanSat-3-Argos mission.

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