South Asia Satellite to Benefit South Asia Region Another Feather on ISRO’s Crown

India has launched on the ‘South Asia Satellite’ that will benefit all the countries in the region, except Pakistan which is not a part of the project. A. S. Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said that the satellite, with a lift-off mass of 2,195 kg, would carry 12 ku-band transponders. “Pakistan is not included in that. They did not want (to be part of the project),” he said. People aware of the matter said the satellite is designed for a mission life of more than 12 years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made an announcement about this satellite during the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in 2014 calling it a “gift to India’s neighbours.” “It (name) was changed to this (South Asia Satellite) because of that only (Pakistan not being part of it),” Kiran Kumar said.

Earlier, it was named as ‘SAARC Satellite.’ “Basically, it (the satellite) is meant for providing communication and disaster support, connectivity among States (countries of South Asia region). It will provide a significant capability to each of these participating States in terms of DTH, certain VSAT capacity plus linking among the states for both disaster information transfer and also in terms of library type of things,” he said. “So, there is a significant amount of inter-linking possible among the States (these countries),” Kiran Kumar said. According to ISRO officials, there is a potential for each participating country to use a dedicated transponder with a capacity of 36 to 54 MHz for its own internal use. Each country would be responsible for content generation and its use, they said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious South Asian satellite project, announced two years ago, is likely to miss the December deadline as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch GSLV Mark III that month. “ISRO has been launching at least one satellite every month, so our calendar is perennially packed and at this point of time it looks difficult to launch the South Asian satellite in December. It could get delayed by a month,” a senior official said.

The delay in the South Asian satellite also comes at a time when the regional grouping’s annual summit in Islamabad has been called off, following the escalation of tension between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Uri terror attack. Modi, during the regional bloc’s 2014 summit in Kathmandu, had announced the launch of a SAARC satellite as a ‘gift’ to its neighbours in order to expand information sharing and connectivity within the region. SAARC had come into being on December 8, 1985 and the initial plan was to operationalise the satellite in December last year. However, Pakistan opposed the move and demanded that the satellite be brought under the ambit of the grouping. This was unacceptable to India. The name was later changed to South Asian satellite. Barring Afghanistan and Pakistan, all other SAARC countries have given their go-ahead to the project.

Space agency ISRO scripted history in February by successfully launching 104 satellites, including India’s weather observation Cartosat-2 Series, in a single mission onboard its dependable Polar rocket from. Bettering Russian space agency’s feat of launching 37 satellites in a single mission in 2014, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) injected the Cartosat-2 Series satellite and 103 Nano satellites into precise orbit after a textbook lift-off from this spaceport, about 100 km from Chennai. The previous highest number of satellites launched by ISRO in one mission was 20 in June 2015, the agency said. Cartosat-2 Series satellite, a remote sensing spacecraft with a five-year life span, would send images that would be utilised in coastal land use and regulation, road network monitoring, distribution of water, creation of land use maps among others, ISRO said.

About South Asian Satellite

GSAT-9 is a planned Indian geostationary communications satellite. It will be utilized to serve also the neighbouring countries of the SAARC (except Pakistan, which opted out) as South Asian Satellite. Similar to the INSAT 4C/4CRsatellites, it will carry 12 high powered Ku-band transponders with India coverage beam and two beacon transmitters. The satellite is planned with a mission life of 12 years and is to be positioned at 48º East longitude. This I-2K (I-2000) Bus satellite has a liftoff mass of 2195 kg and payload power of 2300 W. It will also test an electrical propulsion system. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, the Maldives and Nepal responded positively to the idea, but Pakistan and Afghanistan refused to join the consortium, halting the project. Later, the proposed SAARC satellite has been rebranded as the South Asian Satellite after Pakistan dropped out from the project. The satellite will design, build, launch and maintain for the benefit of South Asian countries in various fields including telecommunication and metrological aspects. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is entrusted to launch the satellite.

Bangladesh to join this initiative

Bangladesh has signed an agreement with India to formally join New Delhi’s ‘South Asia Satellite’ initiative. The agreement was inked by Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Chairman Shahjahan Mahmood and Indian High Commissioner Harsh Vardhan Shringla, media reported. Chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Shahjahan Mahmood and Indian high commissioner Harsh Vardhan Shringla signed the agreement titled ‘Orbit Frequency Coordination of proposed at 48.0°E’.

All the South Asian countries, except Pakistan, will be part of this unique project binding the region in a cooperative and collaborative endeavour for the benefit of the people of the participating countries. “It represents a landmark in cooperation between our two countries in high technology,” said high commissioner Shringla. He said he is happy that Bangladesh, as a close friend, partner and neighbour of India, has agreed to join this initiative, the first of its kind in the region. The South Asia Satellite is a communication satellite covering the South Asia region for the use of participating countries to host applications in the areas of education, health and emergency communication.

The benefits associated with the participation in the project include Tele-education, Tele-medicine and inter-government networks, emergency communication for disaster situation, television broadcast and DTH television services. India has designed and constructed this Satellite at a cost of $400 million. The high commissioner thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for supporting this regional initiative. “I’m confident that the launching of the South Asia Satellite will contribute to the re-integration of the economies of the South Asia region and also connect, empower and transform the lives of our people,” he said. India, through the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), will launch a 2-ton class communication satellite with 12-Ku band transponders (36 MHz each) using ISRO’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV Mk-II) for serving the South Asia region.

There is a potential for each participating country to use a dedicated transponder with the capacity of 36 to 54 MHz for its own internal use. Each country will be responsible for content generation and its use. The announcement of the launch of the satellite was made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 2014 SAARC Summit in Kathmandu as a ‘gift to India’s neighbours’. This satellite is a reflection of India’s commitment to the development of the South Asian region and an expression to share its expertise and technology for the benefit of the region, says Indian high commission in Dhaka. Bangladesh’s state minister for foreign affairs M Shahriar Alam and foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque were also present at the signing ceremony.

Five new satellites this year

An unprecedented row of five national communication spacecraft are slated to be put in space this year with hopes of vastly cutting the gap in satellite capacity for different users. A.S. Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), recently told, “This year we are launching five more communication satellites. With all of them coming up, there will definitely be a drastic, perceptible change in satellite capacity. In a matter of one year, the scene should be much better than now.” Mr. Kumar also said ISRO has been taking various actions consciously towards improving its overall communication transponder capacity; this space infrastructure supports broadcasters, telephone, Internet service and other businesses. New satellites that are constantly put up for approval could ease up the scene further in the next two or three years, he said.

The five communication satellites are in addition to five advanced Earth observation spacecraft that are planned this year and in 2018 — Cartosat-2 series satellite 3, Cartosat-3, GISAT-1, RISAT-1A which will replace RISAT-1, and Oceansat-3. The ISRO Satellite Centre in Bengaluru assembles the spacecraft. For several years now, the space agency has been beset with a capacity deficit, caused by launch failures in which satellites were destroyed, and a galloping demand from public and private sector users. The agency says its communication fleet of 14 provides 200-odd transponder equivalents. Another 95-odd transponders have been hired on foreign satellites to support Indian direct-to-home broadcasters, and the agency aims to bring them back to its satellites.

Referring to last year’s success and regularisation of the GSLV Mark II rocket programme — which can put up to 2,000-kg satellites in space — Mr. Kumar said: “We have overcome some of the issues of launch vehicles, now we need to produce and make more use of them, and put more satellites in orbit.” GSAT-9 will ride on one such indigenous GSLV. Five communication spacecraft spread over less than a year is historic and a rarity for ISRO; all these years, it has launched one or two communication satellites a year. GSAT-18 was the lone communication satellite sent up in late 2016.

Tentatively, ISRO has lined up the Internet user-friendly GSAT-19 for launch around May; GSAT-17 around June; GSAT-6A, which like GSAT-6 is for the defence forces, in September; and its largest 5,000-plus GSAT-11 around December. GSAT-17 and GSAT-11 will be launched on the European Ariane launcher. Ever since INSAT-4CR was moved to a new orbital slot a few months back, its efficiency has improved and a little extra capacity has been created for select use, the ISRO chairman said.

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