Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh): Indian satellite scientist N. Valarmathi, 52, was
herself on cloud nine when her baby - the Indian spy in the sky
Radar Imaging Satellite (Risat-1) - started its ascent to the
skies Thursday morning.
“It was a nice feeling. I felt very great,” Valarmathi, project
director for Risat-1 project, told IANS.
Playing down the satellite’s strategic role, the woman who
delivered the Indian spy in the sky for the nation, said: “Risat-1
is a unique satellite with several new technologies including
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) that could take images during day
She said the satellite has high data handling systems, and high
storage devices among other things.
Weighing 1,858 kg, the Risat-1, which has a life span of five
years, would be used for disaster prediction and agriculture and
forestry purposes while its high-resolution pictures and microwave
imaging could also be used for defence purposes.
Hailing from Tamil Nadu’s Ariyalur district where she had her
schooling, Valarmathi is the second woman to be the satellite
project director at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO),
but the first woman to head a remote sensing satellite project.
T.K. Anuradha, who headed the communication satellite GSAT-12
programme, is the first woman ever to have been the satellite
project director at ISRO.
At the macro level, ISRO has three satellite programmes:
geo-stationary, remote sensing and small/experimental satellites.
The geo-stationary satellites are largely communication satellites
used for telecommunications, television broadcasting, internet and
other purposes, while remote sensing or earth observation
satellites send back pictures and other data for use.
Holding a masters degree in engineering from the famed Anna
University here, Valarmathi joined ISRO Satellite Centre in
Bangalore in 1984.
“I joined ISRO at a time when it was immersed in several exciting
projects,” she said.
Valarmathi has worked in satellite projects like Insat 2A, IRS IC,
IRS ID, TES and finally Risat.
Wife of a banker G. Vasudevan and mother of two - a son and
daughter, Valarmathi got involved in Risat-1 project in 2002 and
worked in capacities like deputy project director and associate
project director before she got elevated as the project director
“The position had higher responsibility and challenges,” she said.
According to her, Risat-1 was first of its kind satellite for the
ISRO and it called for additional effort in building the same.
“The project depended on deliverables from other ISRO centres.
Accommodation of components for satellite needed periodical
reviews and almost all the events were new,” she said while
thanking her team as well as other ISRO officials for the success
of launch mission.
She does not agree the project got inordinately delayed or it got
speeded up after a point.
“From the beginning the project progressed at a good pace,”
remarked Valarmathi who loves nature and reading books.
Queried about her next project, she said the Risat-1 work is not
all over as she has to ensure the picture clarity and fine tuning
the systems if needed.
“There will be several Risats working in various bands,” said
With 12 remote sensing/earth observation satellites orbiting in
space, India has the largest constellation of remote sensing
satellites in the world providing imagery in a variety of
resolutions from more than a metre ranging up to 500 metres. The
data makes India a major player in vending such data in the global
The 12 satellites are TES, Resourcesat 1, Cartosat 1, 2, 2A and
2B, IMS 1, Risat-2, Oceansat 2, Resourcesat-2, and Megha-Tropiques