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Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO)

Sector-28, Gulzar-e-Hijri, 
Off University Road,
P.O. Box No. 8402, Karachi - 75270
Tel: +92 (21) 496 5691, 
Fax: +92 (21) 496 0553, 
Telex: 25720 SPACE PK

Pakistan's Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) was established in 1961, and started functioning in 1964. A national organisation with a high degree of autonomy, it implements the space policy established by the Space Research Council (SRC), whose president is the Prime Minister. SUPARCO's programs include the development and launch of sounding rockets, and satellite applications in the field of remote sensing and communications.

SUPARCO is headquartered at the Arabian Sea port of Karachi in southern Pakistan, with additional facilities at the University of the Punjab at Lahore. As of late 1999 the Chairman of SUPARCO was Dr. Abdul Majeed. SUPARCO's organization includes:

In June 1998 the US Commerce Department implemented the Clinton Administration's sanctions on India and Pakistan. The sanctions included a licensing policy of denial for exports and reexports of items controlled for nuclear nonproliferation and missile technology reasons to India and Pakistan. Additionally, the rule added certain Indian and Pakistani government, parastatal, and private entities to the Entity List. A prohibition was imposed on exports and reexports to certain government, parastatal, and private entities in India and Pakistan determined to be involved in nuclear or missile activities.

Unlike the national space agencies of many developing countries, SUPARCO has a rather low public profile that if anything has declined over time. The agency does not have an internet website, and indeed the "brochure-ware" presence maintained by the United Nations Development Program has been taken offline. The quarterly journal "Space Horizon" published by SUPARCO since 1983, ceased publication in June 1991, while "Suparco Times" a quarterly journal published by SUPARCO since 1982, ceased publication in March 1994.

Pakistan has undertaken a number of steps for consolidating and focusing it space programme in response to national priorities. The satellite ground station for reception of NOAA, Landsat and SPOT data was upgraded in the late 1990s. A national GIS Committee was constituted to bring about GIS standardization. Work on the development of Badr-B multi-mission satellite is well advanced. A Space Applications Research Centre has been commissioned at Lahore, and the Aerospace Institute, under SUPARCO, has started training and education of space application experts.

The Inter-Islamic Network On Space Sciences and Technology [ISNET] was founded in 1986, in order to promote the advancement of Space sciences and Technology in the countries of the Islamic World. The member countries include Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Jordan, Syria, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Brunei, Kuwait, Senegal and Cameroon. It is headed by a President, who has assumed as Chairman, SUPARCO and assisted by Executive Director. Dr. Abdul Majid was its founding Executive Director. Headquartered in SUPARCO headquarters, Karachi, it has been responsible directly and indirectly in the fabrication, processing and launch of Muslim Ummah's First Experimental Satellite, BADAR-1. This satellite was launched as a piggyback payload on 16th July, 1990 aboard the Chinese Long March 2-E Launch Vehicle.

The SUPARCO Complex near Rawat is a comprehensive facility that tracks, acquires, archives, processes and analyses imagery from earth observation satellites such as Landsat, SPOT and NOAA. The acquisition zone of this facility extends to approximately 2,500 km around Islamabad, and its products are being provided to more than 70 public and private sector user agencies in Pakistan.

As national co-ordinator for remote sensing in Pakistan, SUPARCO organizes short training courses on annual/biannual basis to acquaint the national users with application of satellite remote sensing data for resource and environmental surveying. These courses are regularly held at Remote Sensing Applications Centre (RESACENT), Karachi or at its regional centers at other cities in the country. The RESACENT has been actively pursuing a multidisciplinary remote sensing application programme since 1973. The research studies based mainly on Landsat/SPOT data supplemented by aerial and conventional data have been carried out at the Centre. A large volume of Landsat MSS/TM and SPOT XS/PAN data covering the whole of Pakistan and a limited amount of SIR-A, Metric Camera and CZCS data are available at this Centre. These data are being used by scientists/engineers of the Centre as well as by the national user agencies for various application studies. Satellite data acquired from the NOAA meteorological satellites in APT mode as well as the environmental data acquired through DCPs are also provided to other concerned agencies.

As the national space agency, SUPARCO is responsible for satellite applications to meteorological and atmospheric studies for scientists belonging to various national agencies. Courses held at SUPARCO's Space and Atmospheric Research Centre (SPARCENT) at Karachi, cover the following: acquisition of data from meteorologial satellites. application of satellite data to various meteorological and related environmental studies; determination of vertical profiles of atmospheric parameters through satellite radiance; study of earth's atmosphere through balloon and rocket soundings; air pollution monitoring; collection of environmental data from unmanned Data Collection Platforms. Research studies carried out at SPARCENT include ionospheric physics and radio wave propagation; satellite tracking using optical and radio techniques; geomagnetism; observational astronomy, as well as Communication Satellite System design, evaluation, technical studies, data acquisition/interpretation, small ground terminals/receivers.

SUPARCO facilities include small and medium range sounding rocket launching facilities; telemetry and tracking facility; I4 inches Cassegrain optical telescopes; mobile video optical system; Magnavox receivers; radio tracking receivers. Satellite tracking station. Other facilities include PIR 9A and 9B vertical incidence ionospheric sounders; Digisond 256 for acquisition of ionospheric data; VLF receiver/comparator (l6 KHz) for monitoring solar flares; in-house microcomputer facility; automatic geomagnetic observatory.

The RESACENT has well-equipped laboratory facilities for visual as well as digital interpretation and analysis of remotely sensed data. Electro-optical equipment used for visual interpretation include density slicer, zoom transferscope, zoom stereoscopes, Diazo developer/printer, rationing radiometer and other equipment. The Centre's digital processing facilities include a dedicated, interactive, micro-processor based image processing system - EBBA II - and MicroVax II computer with a GPX workstation. Various I/O peripherals are connected to both systems. A Local Area Network (LAN) incorporating 8 user terminals and the GPX workstation has also been developed on basis of the MicroVax II.

SUPARCO has also established a satellite ground receiving station at Islamabad to acquire Landsat MSS and TM, SPOT XS and Pan and NOAA AVHRR HRPT data in real-time. This station is one of the most advanced and sophisticated stations in the Asia-Pacific region. It covers, in addition to the whole of Pakistan, a large number of neighbouring countries, wholly or partially. The station has most modern facilities for data reception, preprocessing and processing, which include S and X band dish antennas, high density digital tape recorders, VAX 11/780 computers, array processors, high precision B & W and colour film recorder, etc.

SUPARCO also has sophisticated ground receiving station for acquisition of NOAA APT pictures and facilities for reception of TOVS/HRPT data. Micro computer based systems are available for the processing of NOAA and TOVS/HRPT data. Other facilities include DCPs for the collection of environmental data from remote and inaccessible areas and Local User Terminal (LUT) for acquisition and processing of these data under the ARGOS Network; Surface Air Pollution Monitoring Equipment; Analytical Chemistry Lab. for the analysis of field samples; Balloon Sounding Facility for Stratospheric Ozone and related Upper Atmospheric Studies.

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