Isro's GSLV-F09 blasts off with South Asia Satellite on board, a big boost to India's space diplomacy

For the first time, New Delhi has flexed its prowess of space technology by embarking on unprecedented and un-chartered stratospheric diplomacy.

The skies above the island of Sriharikota on the coast of the Bay of Bengal lit up as the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) also called the naughty boy of Isro, on its 11th mission carried a message of peace like never before. The nearly 50-m-tall rocket that weighs about 412 tons had on board a single passenger, what is now dubbed as the South Asia Satellite or what the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) still prefers to call GSat-9. Precisely at 4.57 p.m., the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F09) rose into the sky from the second launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at the spaceport in Andhra Pradesh.

India has embarked on space diplomacy like never before. For the first time, New Delhi has flexed its prowess of space technology by embarking on unprecedented and un-chartered stratospheric diplomacy through a special gift for south Asians. India is carving a very unique place in the universe, New Delhi has gifted a heavyweight bird in the sky to its neighbours through the South Asia Satellite.

The satellite is intended as an 'Indian Gift' for use by its fellow South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) nations save Pakistan, which had opted out, stating "it has its own space programme." Costing around Rs 235 crore, the satellite was initially known as the Saarc satellite but with Pakistan deciding to keep out, it is now called the South Asia Satellite. Its life span is over 12 years.

India is opening its heart out to its neighbours, explains External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay, adding “neighbourhood first is now being extended beyond the stratosphere”. It seems this gift of a communications satellite for use by neighbours at no cost has no parallels in the space- faring world, all other current regional consortia are commercial for-profit enterprises. The initiative has been praised by a Chinese state run daily newspaperGlobal Times. 

The satellite is the pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who first proposed the satellite on 30 June, 2014, just four weeks after coming into power and witnessing the successful launch of five satellites on board the PSLV-c23. Unlike previous satellite launches, Isro did not cover the launch live, and DD National did not have a pre-launch program. Various news channels have however, reported that the rocket has taken off with the South Asia Satellite on board.

In his most recent monthly radio address 'Mann Ki Baat', Modi said the South Asia Satellite will go a long way in addressing the region's economic and developmental priorities. "Natural resources mapping, telemedicine, the field of education, deeper IT connectivity or fostering people-to-people contact, this satellite will prove to be a boon in the progress of the entire region. "It is an important step by India to enhance cooperation with the entire South Asia...It is an invaluable gift. This is an appropriate example of our commitment towards South Asia. I welcome all the South Asian countries who have joined us on this momentous endeavour," he had said.

According to an official, the ISRO on an experimental basis decided to have electric power for the satellite. "We have not reduced the volume of the traditional on-board fuel because of the electric power. We have added electric power facility to check its performance for use in future satellites," the official told IANS. He said the next satellite with electric power will be the GSAT-20 slated for launch in 2018.

The GSLV is a three stage/engine rocket. The core of the first stage is fired with solid fuel while the four strap-on motors by liquid fuel. The second is the liquid fuel and the third is the cryogenic engine.


With inputs from IANS and PTI

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