• Sunday, December 15, 2019

Satellite ground station expansion shows Pakistan’s reliance on China

Discussion in 'Pakistan Strategic Forces' started by Gryphon, Mar 20, 2019.

  1. Gryphon

    Gryphon SENIOR MEMBER

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    [Content preview – Subscribe to Jane’s Intelligence Review for full article]

    Pakistan has upgraded its main ground station to support two new satellites. Nick Hansen examines the expansion of infrastructure at the site in the context of Pakistan's limited space programme

    Key Points

    • The SUPARCO satellite ground station at Rawat near Islamabad doubled in size during 2017–18 to support the PRSS-1 and PakTES-1A imaging satellites.

    • China sold Pakistan a turn-key system for the PRSS-1 satellite and it is likely that China retains the capability to operate the satellite.

    • Pakistan’s space programme remains dependent on foreign suppliers for most of its satellite subsystems and lags far behind the programme of its main strategic rival, India.


    Pakistan has upgraded the country’s first Landsat-receiving ground station to control and receive images from its two new imaging satellites, the Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite-1 (PRSS-1) and the Pakistan Technology Evaluation Satellite (PakTES-1A). The satellites were launched in July 2018 by China and Pakistan claims that they are for civil purposes, although their capabilities have military applications.

    The station is located in the Islamabad/Rawalpindi suburb of Rawat. As of November 2018, the station maintained six major steerable dish antennae, measuring between 5 metres and 10 m in diameter. From early 2016, construction started on facilities that doubled the size of the ground station. This was to support the PRSS-1 and PakTES-1A imaging satellites.

    The ground station is run by Pakistan’s national space agency, the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), and is co-located with the Institute of Space Technology, its affiliated Center of Aviation, and the Science School. The three schools appear to be civilian-run. However, the ground station has security check points at its three vehicle entrances and a helicopter landing pad that may indicate a military presence.

    Evolution of the station

    Pakistan set up a portable Landsat receiving station in Rawalpindi in 1976 with the assistance of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This station was operated by SUPARCO. In 1989, a permanent ground station became operational for Landsat earth resources imagery in Rawat.

    The station operated with Landsat until December 1999, according to the United States Geological Survey listing of historical contributors to the Landsat programme. A report, ‘Pakistan’s Space Programme’, accessible on SUPARCO’s website, noted that the station began collecting imagery from the French earth observation (Satellite pour l’observation de la Terre: SPOT) satellites in the late 1990s, when the station was upgraded. SPOT imagery collection continued into the mid-to-late 2000s.

    [​IMG]
    A Long March-2C rocket carrying two satellites for Pakistan – PRSS-1 and PakTES-1A – is launched at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on 9 July 2018 in Jiuquan, Gansu province. China is Pakistan’s main space supplier for satellites, ground systems, and launches. (China Great Wall Industry Corporation/China News Service/VCG)

    1752109


    The station archived all its data and in 1989 sent 2,540 high-density tapes of Landsat images to the Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) data centre in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for digital processing and storage, according to the website of the Landsat programme. It is likely that the ground station was also intended to support SUPARCO’s Chinese-launched Badr-1 communications satellite. However, that satellite failed 35 days after its launch on 16 July 1990. The Badr-B/2, a small earth observation mission, also failed several months after its launch from Baikonur by the Russian space agency on 10 December 2001.

    Layout of the station

    As of 1989, the Rawat Landsat station is likely to have included the control building, a 10-m dish antenna (antenna 1), and an L-Band (1.67–1.71GHz) tower-mounted antenna for receiving US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite real-time weather imagery. The 10-m X-Band Landsat antenna may still be in use. A likely antenna was visible mounted on the tower from the first high-resolution commercially available
    imagery coverage in May 2003 until before 2009. This may have been an L-Band antenna used to receive Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer real-time weather imagery from US NOAA satellites.

    The 3-m antenna (antenna 2) was also present in the earliest available imagery in 2003, and may be used as an acquisition aid for the 10-m antenna. A 5-m antenna (antenna 3) was visible under construction in May 2003, and was operational by April 2005. The function of this antenna is unknown. Cable trenches from the control building to antennae 1 to 3 were also present in the 2003 and 2006 images. The helicopter pad was added during this period.

    The large control building was also present in 2003 and is used to control the various antennae to acquire, track, and receive the downlink data. Inside the building, the data will be processed into images, analysed, and archived.

    On the roof of the large control building there are three likely 2-m satellite communication (SATCOM) antennae. These were installed between late 2012 and early 2013. Two of them are pointed on an azimuth of approximately 210 degrees and the other on approximately 222 degrees. All three are at low elevation angles and are likely to be working with geosynchronous communications satellites.

    New construction started in an open field at the southern end of the ground station in early 2016. The expansion included three new antennae and a large control building. The first of the new antennae (antenna 4) is 7 m in diameter and was completed in July 2017. It has a cable trench connecting it to the original control building and the new control building. The second antenna (antenna 5), mounted by March 2018, is a 6.5-m dish in the original antenna field. This antenna was subsequently covered by a 12-m geodesic radome by August 2018 and was connected to the new control building by a cable trench.

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  2. Comrade

    Comrade FULL MEMBER

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    SUPARCO needs to do more here...
     
  3. Fledgingwings

    Fledgingwings SENIOR MEMBER

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    Pakistan does not have much money to spend on space programs.
     
  4. Pakistani Aircraft

    Pakistani Aircraft FULL MEMBER

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    How? By growing money on trees?
     
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  5. ghazi52

    ghazi52 ELITE MEMBER

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    Pakistan should keep on doing, what is necessary.
     
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  6. Comrade

    Comrade FULL MEMBER

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    No SUPARCO is dead organization of all defense suites this one is quite dead.
     
  7. Yaseen1

    Yaseen1 SENIOR MEMBER

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    musharaf was responsible for our lagging behind world in space race when Dr AbdulQadeer khan asked for space program musharaf refused due to u.s slavery which he was doing and now we are bearing the consequences.I think musharaf should be punished severely as he damaged our national interest and security very much
     
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  8. alibaz

    alibaz SENIOR MEMBER

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    This nation is deeply indebted to Dr sahibs services to Pakistan. Please do not associate things which were never there.
     
  9. Thəorətic Muslim

    Thəorətic Muslim SENIOR MEMBER

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    They couldn't even map out the land Bahria Karachi had.... Which raises questions about it's land observation abilities that it claims it's fluent in....
     
  10. AZADPAKISTAN2009

    AZADPAKISTAN2009 ELITE MEMBER

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    Best thing for Pakistan is Buy 10 year old used satellites for cheaper rates and learn from it
     
  11. FuturePAF

    FuturePAF FULL MEMBER

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    Commercial open source products such as Google earth seem to be used as the primarily satellite land observation for the government and the military.
     
  12. ARMalik

    ARMalik FULL MEMBER

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    There is much more going on in the background between China and Pakistan. If you expect the military to disclose all its information and secrets to forum warriors like us then sorry but you are living on a different planet.
     
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  13. newb3e

    newb3e SENIOR MEMBER

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    1 billion money plant tsunami!
     
  14. PakShaheen79

    PakShaheen79 SENIOR MEMBER

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    With limited resources, Pak must put focus on development of key sub system for satellites, comm and navigation with sustained growth of institutions like IST. Major focus must remain with projects of PAF like Project Azm and MALE UAV.