GSAT 09 – Opening New Horizons

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When Narendra Modi rode to power in 2014 with a massive mandate he had made his intentions well known to bring SAARC Nations together. His first big step to bring all under one umbrella was when he invited the heads of these nations for his swearing in ceremony that year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made the commitment of launching this satellite at the Kathmandu SAARC summit in 2014. With the launch he dedicates it to the group of nations( SAARC). Nicknamed the ‘naughty boy of ISRO’, GSLV carried the satellite to place it into its designated orbit.

However Pakistan has refused to stand with the initiative. Pakistan said fact that India made it clear that it would build, launch and operate the satellite solely, which was not acceptable.

In signs of what is now being called the neighbourhood first policy,  the 500 crore South Asian Satellite from Sriharikota was launched on Friday. The 2,230 kg satellite, has a mission life of over 12 years

Termed as a Gift to the region, the satellite connects Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka. It has 12 Ku band transponders which can be utilized to speed up communication.

The over two tonne communication satellite built by Indian Space Research organization has been launched onboard GSLV F09. Over the course of reaching operational status it will undergo a series of orbit raising manoeuvres.

The satellite is likely to prove useful for tele-education, telemedicine and disaster management support. It would come in handy in times of disasters such as earthquakes, cyclones, floods and tsunamis.

Study shows that the GSLV flight debuted in2001 but not many flights have been successful. Falling under the Mark II category GSAT 9 will manoeuvre into stationary orbit under own power.

As a three-stage rocket, the first stage is fired with solid fuel, the second with liquid fuel and the third is a cryogenic engine. This is India’s heaviest rocket

Modi in his first comment post launch said that it opens new horizons of engagement.

Shortly after blast off, Modi connected with, Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan; Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bhutan; Abdulla Yameen, President of Maldives; Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Prime Minister of Nepal and Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka, through a video-conference to celebrate the launch.

The satellite launch will help in regional integration which will show lasting benefits.

The launch comes at an interesting time given that China is trying to increase its influence in the South Asian Region.

The project will specially help Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives, which do not have space programmes of their own and are susceptible to climate-related disasters.

Going by numbers the GSAT 9 is relevant because near about 32 per cent population of the world resides in the eight SAARC countries. These are those people who earn less than USD 1.25 a day. In other words the world’s 60 per cent poor lives in these countries.

Pakistan has five satellites. It can also not launch own satellites, made largely with Chinese help, as it lacks heavy duty launchers like PSLVs or GSLVs of ISRO.

In keeping with its image of top space powers, India is providing these countries with access to transponders on the satellite free of charge. The best example of such a collaboration is the European Space Agency which has more than 20 countries as members.

The South Asia Satellite is also an attempt by ISRO to look for newer markets for its services in the immediate neighbourhood. ISRO has so far launched satellites from 23 countries, but none from the region.

Notably Pakistan setup its Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission in 1961, just a year ahead of India setting up the Indian National Committee for Space Research. By 1969 this took the form of the Indian Space Research Organisation. Though Pakistan initially received help from the US in developing its space programme, it was not until 1986 that it built the Badr-1 satellite.

While experts keep a close eye on the developments in the region and ISRO continues to be on the lookout for new frontiers in space exploration, PM Modi’s initiative in regional integration and knowledge sharing is an effort worth praise. How beneficial this unique alliance is that time will tell, but for now the Naughty Boy of ISRO proves to be a child with special talents.

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