India’s maiden dedicated defence satellite was launched by an European rocket early today, giving a boost to Navy’s modernisation push to improve space-based communications and intelligence gathering over a wide oceanic region including the country’s landmass.
Custom-made for the Navy by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the advanced multi-band, state-of-the-art GSAT-7 was successfully lofted into space by European space consortium Arianespace’s Ariane 5 rocket at 2 am from Kourou spaceport, French Guiana, in South America.
In an impressive launch, telecast live by Doordarshan, Ariane 5 precisely placed the Rs 185-crore home-built communication spacecraft into the intended Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) after a flight of 34 minutes 25 seconds duration.
“As planned, ISRO’s Master Control Facility (MCF) at Hassan in Karnataka started acquiring the signals five minutes prior to the separation of GSAT-7 from Ariane-5 launch vehicle. The solar panels of the satellite have been deployed and they are generating power. Initial checks have indicated normal health of the satellite,” the Bangalore-headquartered ISRO said.
Expected to be operational by September-end, the country’s first exclusive satellite for military applications, would give a major push to the maritime security.
According to ISRO, GSAT-7 would provide wide range of service spectrum from low bit rate voice to high bit rate data communication. Its payload is designed to provide communication capabilities to users over a wide oceanic region including the Indian land-mass.
Exclusive satellite for Indian Navy
The 2625-kg satellite, with some new technological elements including the antennae, carries payloads operating in UHF, S, C and Ku bands, helping marine communications with coverage over India landmass as well as surrounding areas, seen as a significant asset from security and surveillance points of view.
With GSAT-7 which would give it an integrated platform, the Navy would be able to overcome the limitation from line of sight and ionospheric effects, among others, that it currently faced as far as space-based communications were concerned.
Earlier, satellite communication in ships was through Inmarsat, a major provider of global mobile satellite communications services.
ISRO said the present orbit of the satellite will be raised to Geostationary Orbit of about 36,000 km altitude through three orbit raising manoeuvres by firing of GSAT-7’s Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM).
Preparations are underway for the first firing, planned in the early hours of tomorrow. The satellite will be placed in the Geostationary Orbit by September 4.
The launch cost for ISRO is around Rs 470 crore, including insurance, as the Indian space agency cannot orbit heavy satellites like GSAT-7 as its home-grown GSLV rocket, with indigenous cryogenic stage, is still at works and needs two successful flights before it is declared operational.
In addition to GSAT-7, the Ariane 5 orbited another spacecraft EUTELSAT 25B/Es’hail. EUTELSAT 25B/Es’hail 1 – which rode in the top position of the Ariane 5 payload “stack” – separated first, some 27 minutes after the liftoff at 2 am.
At approximately 34 minutes into the flight, the lower passenger – GSAT-7 – was deployed, completing the mission.
Indian Ambassador to France, Arun Singh and Director of Bangalore-based ISRO Satellite Centre, S.K Shivakumar, were among those who witnessed the launch.
Singh said the launch event is also a reflection of strategic partnership between India and France. Shivakumar said GSAT-7 would be operational by next month-end.