An unprecedented row of five national communication spacecraft is slated to be put in space this year with hopes of vastly cutting the gap in satellite capacity for different users.
The first of them, GSAT-9 or the South Asia Satellite, will kick off the serial launches in the first half of April from the Sriharikota space port. (Officials said they had not yet set a date for it.)
A.S. Kiran Kumar, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, recently said, “This year we are launching with five more communication satellites. With all of them coming up, there will definitely be a drastic, perceptible change in satellite capacity. In a matter of one year, the scene should be much better than what it is.”
Mr. Kumar also said the ISRO has been taking conscious action to improve its overall communication transponders capacity; this space infrastructure supports broadcasters, telephone, Internet service and other businesses.
New satellites that are constantly put up for approval could ease up the scene in the next two to three years, he said.
For several years now, the space agency has been beset with a capacity deficit, caused by launch failures in which satellites were destroyed; and a galloping demand from public and private sector users.
The agency says its communication fleet of 14 provides 200-odd transponder equivalents. Another 95-odd transponders have been hired on foreign satellites to support Indian direct-to-home broadcasters and the agency aims to bring them back to its satellites.
Referring to last year’s success and regularisation of the GSLV Mark-II rocket programme — that can put up to 2,000-kg satellites to space — Mr. Kumar said:
“We have overcome some of the issues of launch vehicles, now we need to produce and make more use of them, and put more satellites into orbit.”
GSAT-9 will ride on one such indigenous GSLV.
Historic and a rarity
Five communication spacecraft spread over less than a year is historic and a rarity for ISRO; all these years, it has launched one or two communication satellites a year.
GSAT-18 was the lone communication satellite sent up in late 2016.
Tentatively, ISRO has lined up the Internet user-friendly GSAT-19 for launch around May; GSAT-17 around June; GSAT-6A, which like GSAT-6, is for the Defence forces, in September; and its largest 5,000-plus GSAT-11 around December. GSAT-17 and GSAT-11 will be launched on the European Ariane launcher.
After INSAT-4CR was moved to a new orbital slot a few months ago, its efficiency has been improved and a little extra capacity created for select use, he said.