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Modi's Rs 450-cr satellite gift to South Asia takes off without Pak

India made its biggest space diplomacy push today when the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F09), carrying the GSAT-9 or the "South Asia" satellite, was launched successfully at 4.57 p.m. from Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.

The countdown to the launch of the satellite, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed as a priceless gift to South Asia, was smooth. The 28-hour countdown had begun at 12.57 p.m. on Thursday.

The GSAT-9 has been launched with an objective to provide different communication applications in Ku-band with coverage over South Asian countries, the ISRO said.

Standing 49 metres tall and weighing around 450 ton, the GSLV is a three stage rocket. The first stage is fired with solid fuel, the second with liquid fuel and the third is the cryogenic engine. The first stage is fired with solid fuel, the second with liquid fuel and the third is the cryogenic engine.


This is what it means for India and South Asia:

1) Data from GSAT-9 will be shared with Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It was also offered to Pakistan, which turned it down. India is also working with Afghanistan but a deal has still not be ironed out.

2) At least one transponder of this satellite will be available to the participating countries, which will help them connect with each other. In other words, the satellite will help India gain a footprint that extends all over South Asia. Not just that, this 'gift' is a first such move from any country in this region.

3) The participating nations anticipate a Rs 10,000 crore ($1.5 billion) benefit from the satellite's 12-year lifespan.

4) Each country has to develop its own ground infrastructure though India is willing to extend assistance and know-how.

5) The satellite also has the capability to provide secure hot lines among the participating nations in addition since the region is highly prone to earthquakes, cyclones, floods, tsunamis, it may help in providing critical communication links in times of disasters.

6) The 2230-kg satellite has been fabricated in three years and is purely a communications satellite costing Rs 450 crore. The satellite's main structure is cuboid in shape, built around a central cylinder with a mission life of more than 12 years.

7) The nearly 50-m-tall rocket that weighs about 412 tonnes will carry what is now dubbed as the 'South Asia Satellite' or what the Isro still prefers to call GSAT-9.

8) The mission is part of PM Modi's proposal on June 30, 2014 to Isro, asking them to develop a satellite that can be dedicated to our neighbourhood as a 'gift' from India.

9) Modi's efforts got a jolt when even after participating in the planning meeting on June 22, 2015, Pakistan decided to 'opt out' from the proposed SAARC satellite, suggesting it had its own space program'.

10) The project was renamed to 'South Asia Satellite' but sources say Pakistan was not allowed to veto the development project. Frequency co-ordination activities took longer than expected and the launch got postponed by almost six months.

11) Among India's neighbours, three nations already possess full-fledged communication satellites with Pakistan and Sri Lanka having been helped by China; Afghanistan also has a communication satellite, which is an an old India-made satellite acquired from Europe. Bangladesh is likely to have its first bird in the sky later this year made with help from Thales.

12) Experts say "Pakistan has missed an opportunity" since its own space programme is currently in a primitive stage as compared to India's, this, despite the fact that Islamabad actually launched its first rocket five years ahead of India and its space agency Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) is older than ISRO.

13) Pakistan has had five satellites in space but today lacks heavy duty launchers and satellite fabrication facilities.

14) The South Asia Satellite is India's plan to counter China's growing influence on its neighbours. But in the 21st-century Asian space race, China already has the first mover advantage.


After the successful launch, Prime Minister Modi tweeted to congratulate the scientists involved in the project.

The launch, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, is being widely seen as a display of India's soft power and regional influence.

The space agency said that the GSAT-9 was configured around the ISRO's standard I-2K bus, with a lift-off mass of 2,230 kg, and the satellite's main structure was cuboid in shape built around a central cylinder with a mission life of more than 12 years.

According to an official, ISRO on experimental basis decided to have electric power for the satellite. He said the next satellite with electric power will be the GSAT-20 slated for launch in 2018. ISRO is also gearing up to launch its heaviest rocket GSLV-Mk III later in May.

Initially christened as the Saarc satellite, it was renamed after Pakistan dropped out and India was unable to reach an agreement with Afghanistan to be a part of this mega project.


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