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The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is set to bolster its capabilities in space situational awareness (SSA) with the implementation of Project Netra, an ambitious early warning system designed to detect potential hazards to Indian satellites. With a projected completion date by the end of 2024 or in early 2025, Project Netra will provide India with its own space debris radar, offering the ability to detect objects as small as 10 cm at a remarkable range of 2000 km.

The project, estimated to cost ?400 crore, will equip ISRO with a self-reliant SSA capability, placing India on par with other space powers that possess similar systems to ‘predict’ threats from space debris to their satellites. However, Project Netra goes beyond safeguarding against floating particles from dead satellites or rocket parts; it also serves as an implicit warning against potential missile or space attacks.

Space debris, comprising floating particles and fragments from defunct satellites or rockets, poses a significant threat to operational spacecraft. Even tiny specks of paint or debris can inflict severe damage to satellites, jeopardizing their electronics and disrupting essential services they provide. For space agencies, vigilance over space debris is a constant task, requiring continuous monitoring during launches and throughout the satellites’ lifespans.

Project Netra will act as an extra layer of protection for India’s valuable satellites, worth several hundred crore rupees and supporting vital services. By detecting space debris and potential hazards early, ISRO can implement timely course corrections or precautionary measures to safeguard its satellites from collisions or damage.

Additionally, the early warning system’s capability to detect and analyze objects at a range of 2000 km offers a significant advantage in space surveillance and awareness. It allows India to monitor not just its immediate surroundings but also distant regions, enhancing its overall space situational awareness.

Moreover, Project Netra sends a subtle message about India’s preparedness to handle potential threats in space. With an increasing interest in space exploration and the growing militarization of outer space, having an indigenous SSA system is a strategic move to safeguard the country’s interests and assets.

The implementation of Project Netra will mark a significant milestone for ISRO, enabling the agency to expand its purview from studying Earth from above to monitoring space from Earth. It will allow ISRO to play a more proactive role in safeguarding the nation’s space assets and securing its strategic interests.

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