India has plans to launch a Geostationary Imaging Satellite (Gisat) for real-time observation over the Indian subcontinent and to shore up surveillance over its sensitive borders, a senior government official says.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is in the process of designing the Gisat, which will be placed in geostationary orbit at 36,000 km (22,369 mi.) altitude, the official tells Aviation Week. He did not specify a time frame for the launch.

The Gisat is expected to provide near real-time images of large areas of the country, under cloud-free conditions, at frequent intervals. “That is, selected, sector-wise imaging every five minutes and entire Indian landmass every 30 minutes at 50 meters spatial resolution,” he says.

ISRO’s earlier remote-sensing satellites orbit over the poles at an altitude of nearly 900 km from the ground and revisit areas at intervals of one week. Gisat will be fixed in a geostationary orbit, always keeping watch over the same region.

“Gisat will provide pictures of the area of interest on near real-time basis including border areas,” the official says. It will carry visible, near-infrared and thermal sensors capable of working in resolutions ranging from 50 meters to 1.5 km.

Weighing less than 1,000 kg (2,200 lb.), the satellite will be orbited by a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

The Gisat program recently received a budget allocation of 500 million rupees ($9.1 million) for preliminary work. The satellite is expected to be ready in a couple of years.

Meanwhile, India is seeking to expand its presence in the commercial satellite launch market and hopes to launch a much-awaited orbiter mission to Mars in November 2013.

On Sept. 9, the ISRO successfully launched its PSLV, putting two foreign satellites into orbit. ISRO has lined up 58 missions for its 12th five-year plan (2012-17), comprising 25 launch vehicles and 33 satellite launches.

A Planning Commission panel on space and technology earlier this year recommended a financial allocation of nearly $10 billion for various space missions for the 12th five-year plan (2012-2017).

India has so far completed at least 10 missions in each of the 8th, 9th and 10th planing periods, and 29 in the 11th five-year plan period from 2007-12.

PSLV photo: AgenceFrance-Presse