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India launches South Asian Satellite which can be used for communication by six neighbouring countries at no cost

On May 5, India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F09) successfully launched South Asia Satellite or GSAT-9 into its planned Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).

The South Asia Satellite (SAS) is a communication satellite built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) over a period of 3 years at a cost INR 2.3 billion (~USD 36 million; funded entirely by India) to provide a variety of communication services over the South Asian region.

In an effort to boost regional cooperation and strengthen relationships, six neighbouring countries of India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka will have free use of the satellite. The satellite has 12 Ku band transponders, which the six nations can use to improve communications, including broadcasting and Internet services. Each South Asian country will get access to one transponder through which it will be able to beam its own programming, besides common “South Asian programming”.

The countries will have to develop their own ground infrastructure. They can access assistance and knowhow from India if they so desire. (Bangladesh is planning to launch its own communication satellite, Bangabandhu-1, in 2017. It will have a total of 40 Ku and C-band transponders, built by Franco-Italian aerospace manufacturer, Thales Alenia Space at a cost USD 248 million. Sri Lanka’s SupremeSat is planning to launch the fully owned SupremeSAT-2 working by  early/mid-2018. with the China Great Wall Industry Corporation at a cost of USD 215 million.)

The  2,230-kg SAS is a geosynchronous communications and meteorology satellite, with a mission lifespan of 12 years. It will provide significant capability to each of the participating countries in terms of DTH (direct-to-home) broadcasting, in addition to linking the countries for disaster information transfer. It will support more predictable weather forecasting and efficient natural resource mapping. The satellite is expected to help the countries improve governance, extend better banking services, education and medical care through tele-services in remote areas.

The satellite orbit will be raised from its present GTO to the final circular Geostationary Orbit (GSO) by firing the satellite's Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) in stages. After the completion of orbit raising operations and the satellite’s positioning in its designated slot in the GSO following in-orbit testing of its payloads, SAS will be commissioned into service .

Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India congratulated ISRO scientists and said, “With this launch we have started a journey to build the most advanced frontier of our partnership. With its position high in the sky, this symbol of South Asian cooperation would meet the aspirations of economic progress of more than 1.5 billion people in our region and extend our close links into outer space.”

Earlier this year in February, ISRO set a record of the maximum satellites in a single launch, by launching 104 satellites from a single rocket in one go. So far, ISRO has ferried 226 satellites into orbit, including 180 satellites from abroad. ISRO is attempting to scale up the frequency of launches to 12 per year from the current seven. India’s second moon landing mission Chandrayaan-2, is planned to hit the skies in early 2018.

Read the press release here.

Featured image: Stock photo of satellite

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