About Biak

Lapan-Tubsat, the Indonesian-built video surveillance satellite monitored Papua's environment

Images of environmental destruction in the easternmost province of Papua have recently been captured by the Lapan-Tubsat, the Indonesian-built video surveillance satellite that went into orbit in 2007, the National Aeronautics and Space Agency said.

Toto Marnanto Kadri, chief of the Aerospace Electronics Technology Center run by the agency, also known as Lapan, said the damage in Papua – site of the giant Freeport McMoran mine – could be “read” in the images.

“The data still needs to be studied thoroughly by experts,” he said.

Mochammad Ichsan, chief of Lapan’s Space Vehicle Observation Unit in Biak, Papua, said an area near Timika’s airport showed quite noticeable changes judging by a comparison of recent images and those captured in the late 1980s.

Mochammad said a small “line” earlier indicating a river appeared to be a “much wider line today, up to five times wider.”

“All the trees along the riverbank are gone,” he told the Jakarta Globe.

The micro-satellite carries a high-resolution color video camera with coverage of 3.5 kilometers wide and a low-resolution color camera with a swath of 81 kilometers. The cameras have a resolution of five meters and 200 meters, respectively.

Monitoring of fires
The satellite carries telemetry and telecommand transmission systems, as well as an altitude control system allowing it to receive commands from various ground stations, including the one built last year in Biak.

Weighing 57 kg, the satellite can be used for real-time monitoring of forest fires, volcanic activity and flooding.

The satellite is currently focusing on forested areas as well as the cities of Biak, Timika, Sorong and Manokwari. Mochammad said the satellite could also cover western Indonesia and Singapore, as well as areas of Darwin, Australia.

Mochammad said the satellite and the ground station in Biak were both performing very well to date, but changing weather in Papua made it hard to consistently rely on the clarity of images it delivered.

“The camera usually only captures images of clouds, since it is pretty cloudy at the moment,” he said.

Besides the ground station in Biak, Lapan also has two other stations in Rancabungur and Rumpin, both in Bogor, all built by US-based engineering firms.

The agency has plans to build another station in Kototabang, West Sumatra.

Lapan claims that the satellite is still in good condition even though it has been orbiting for three years. The satellite has obtained images from western Indonesian regions and can cover from Singapore to Bali.

Last year it was used to monitor the construction process of the Suramadu Bridge in East Java and toll road projects outside Java.

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