ISRO, Modi put India in new orbit

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 11, 2018

ISRO’s communication satellite GSAT-9 on-board GSLV-F09 as the latter lifts off from Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota on Friday   -  PTI

The South Asian Satellite project seen expanding Delhi’s influence in the region

When ISRO’s GSLV-FO9 blasted off from the space agency’s Satish Dhawan facility at Shriharikota, in Andhra Pradesh, at 4-57 pm today, India’s space diplomacy also took to the skies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s gift to SAARC neighbours, the South Asia Satellite (SAS) is expected to foster regional cooperation in the areas of broadcasting, tele-medicine, meteorology, disaster response, and so on.

The success of the ₹450-crore project is significant in three ways for India’s space programme and ambition.

First, it demonstrates ISRO’s capability to launch heavier communications satellites, with the indigenous Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). Second, the SAS will reinforce the country’s leadership position in the SAARC region — minus Pakistan. Finally, it places the country in a strong position to pitch for a larger slice of the satellite-launch business, given India’s cost-effective space programmes.

ISRO’s track record includes the successful launch of the Mangalyan orbiter to Mars and the placing of a record 104 satellites in orbit with its workhorse — the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)near-orbit.

Regional leadership

The immediate beneficiaries of the SAS programme will be the SAARC nations, each of which getting access to at least one out of the 12 Ku-band transponders, primarily used for broadcast services.

No wonder that today’s launch is being hailed as the high point of India’s space diplomacy in the South Asian region, where China, a major space power, has significant influence. Responding to the launch, Modi and the heads of all participating nations were bullish on the new cooperation in this crucial sector.

The SAS is seen as a turning point for India to play a greater role in the region. New Delhi’s offer to help in the using of data collected by the satellite as also with setting up the ground infrastructure will enhance India’s influence.

Bigger challenge ahead

The SAS was put into the orbit by GSLV Mark-II spacecraft. For ISRO, this is the fourth straight success with the indigenous cryogenic rocket. However, the bigger test for ISRO will come in the next couple of months when it fires the GSLV Mark-III version, which can carry payloads (or satellites) of up to five tonnes. In its success lies the proof of India’s capability to develop the critical cryogenic rocket technology, denied to it in the early 1990s by the US. Indian scientists have worked on versions of the engine provided by Russia to develop indigenous capability.

Published on May 05, 2017

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