Network for Space Objects Tracking and Analysis (NETRA) project – UPSC Prelims

Network for Space Objects Tracking and Analysis (NETRA) project:
  • Project NETRA is an initiative by ISRO which is an early warning system in space to detect debris and hazards to the Indian satellites.
  • Under this project, ISRO plans to put up many observational facilities like telescopes, connected radars, data processing units, and a control centre.
  • Significance:
    • This project will help ISRO safeguard Indian satellites in space and is estimated to cost approximately Rs. 400 crores.
    • With the help of telescopes, radars, data processing units, etc., the researchers and scientists will be able to spot and track objects as small as 10 cm, up to a range of 3,400 km and equal to a space orbit of around 2,000 km
    • It aims at capturing the geostationary orbit (GEO), which is closely 36000 km away and is the point where the communication satellites operate
    • With this project, India aims at gaining its own capability of Space Situational Awareness (SSA). This accomplishment will help ISRO predict any harm or thread that may affect Indian satellites in space
    • Current India gets its information about the space debris from North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), which is an initiative by the U.S. and Canada. But the exact and appropriate data cannot be gathered from NORAD. Thus, this project holds great significance for ISRO researchers and scientists.
What is Space Situational Awareness (SSA)?
  • Space Situational Awareness (SSA) is the capability to detect any natural or man-made hazard which may affect the space assets. Thus, to safeguard our space assets, India must have the capability of SSA.
  • It will not just boost the country’s space missions but also help with the security of the Indian satellites in space. Initially, India’s SSA will be for low earth orbits and would consolidate the activity of debris tracking.
  • SSA will also be a benefit from the Defense perspective. It will be able to detect any harm coming from a height (for example missiles) and initiate an early warning.
What is space debris?
  • The parts of dead satellites or rockets which are left floating in the Earth’s orbit and can cause harm to the existing space commodities are called space debris.
  • ISRO conducted 19 Collision Avoidance Manoeuvres (CAM) in 2021.
  • The number of CAMs has increased from just 3 in 2015 to 12 in 2020 and 19 in 2021.
  • Experts predict that the amount of debris would increase due to an increase in space missions worldwide.
    • In 2020, 522 objects were placed in space via 102 launches.
    • Whereas in 2021, about 1,860 objects were placed through 135 launches.
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