India launches satellite to help South Asian nations

Leaders of neighbouring countries, barring Pakistan, join Modi via video conference in celebrating the successful launch by ISRO.

South Asia Satellite or GSAT-9, termed India’s technology largesse from the sky to the peoples of the region, was flown into space on a GSLV rocket at 4.57 p.m. on Friday.

In a televised teleconference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon after the launch, leaders of the six benefiting nations hailed the gesture as a new face of cooperation in space for common good of the neighbourhood.

War-ravaged Afghanistan alone does not share a border with India. Its Prime Minister Ashraf Ghani said, “If cooperation through land is not possible, we can be connected through space.”

The 2,230-kg communication spacecraft will support communication, broadcasting and Internet services, disaster management, tele-medicine, tele-education, weather forecasting in a region that is geographically challenging, economically lagging with limited technological resources, they echoed in their addresses.

Free services

The spacecraft and the launch are estimated to have cost India around ₹450 crore. Its applications touch everyday life and the neighbours use its applications free of charge.

About 17 minutes after the launch, GSAT-9/ South Asia Satellite carrying 12 Ku band transponders was put into a temporary oval orbit on the GSLV-F09 rocket from Sriharikota in coastal Andhra Pradesh. Indian Space Research Organisation later said the major phases of the flight took place as planned.

South Asia Satellite now orbits Earth in an oval orbit 169 km at the nearest and 36,105 km at the farthest, “with an orbital inclination of 20.65 degrees with respect to the Equator.”

The orbit will be made circular through manoeuvres from the Master Control Facility in Hassan in Karnataka.

Soon after it was released from the last stage of the rocket, GSAT-9’s two solar arrays opened out automatically and its engineers at the MCF took charge of the satellite. It will start working after all its instruments are switched on and tested in the coming days.

Common goals

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted the launch immediately. He congratulated ISRO on achieving a flawless lift-off and said the launch fulfills India’s promise of July 2014 of a regional satellite. “With this launch we have started a journey to build the most advanced frontier of our partnership. With its position high in the sky, this symbol of South Asian cooperation would meet the aspirations of economic progress of more than 1.5 billion people in our region and extend our close links into outer space.”

South Asian leaders pat Modi for gifting satellite to the region

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, The Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, along with India, “will together achieve effective communication; better governance, better banking and better education in remote areas;more predictable weather forecasting, land monitoring and efficient resource mapping; linking people with top end medical services through tele-medicine; and a quick response to natural disasters.”

Apart from Dr. Ghani, Sheikh Hasina Wazed of Bangladesh; Tshering Tobgay of Bhutan; and Pushpa Kamal Dahal of Nepal; and Presidents Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom of The Maldives and Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka took part in the teleconference.

Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari congratulated the space agency on the launch and enabling cooperation through space.

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