ISRO's GSAT-7A to give Indian military, drones more sting after 19 Dec launch

The launch of GSAT-7A marks ISRO's 35th communication satellite & 13th flight of the GSLV rocket.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch India's newest military satellite, GSAT-7A, into orbit on 19 December. The satellite will be carried by the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-F11 (GSLV-F11) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR), Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

The GSLV-F-11/GSAT-7A mission marks ISRO's 35th communication satellite and the 13th flight of the GSLV rocket to orbit.

The rocket's third stage cryogenic engines were successfully assembled at the launch pad on Saturday.

GSAT-7A satellite: All you need to know

GSAT-7A is ISRO's 35th communications satellite built exclusively for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army.

The satellite will expand the communication capabilities of the IAF in different ways. First, GSAT-7A will allow cross-connectivity between different ground radar stations, airbases and Airborne early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft like the Beriev A-50 Phalcon and DRDO AEW&CS.

The GSLV-F11 middle stage being lifted during assembly. Image courtesy: ISRO

The GSLV-F11 middle stage being lifted during assembly. Image courtesy: ISRO

The satellite will also boost the air force's network-dependent warfare capabilities, enhancing its abilities to operate globally.

It is also expected to give a big push to drone operations in the Indian military by helping the Navy reduce its reliance on ground-based control stations and switch to satellite-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), that offer better range and endurance, industry experts told Business Standard.

ISRO's 2.25-ton GSAT-7A is designed to work in the Ku-band frequency and houses an 'I-2K' bus, which functions as the satellite's communication hub or service module.

GSAT-7A's nuts and bolts

The I-2K satellite bus was developed by ISRO and now marketed by its commercial arm, Antrix. The 'I' in I-2K stands for INSAT, a series of communication satellites developed and launched by ISRO, and the 2k gives away the weight-category of the satellites it is designed for: the 2,000-kg class.

The satellite buses developed by ISRO are specifically developed for small and medium weight satellites.

The miliary communications satellite GSAT-7A with its solar panelled opened up. Image courtesy: ISRO

The military communications satellite GSAT-7A with its solar panelled opened up. Image courtesy: ISRO

With deployable solar arrays and batteries to power the satellite over the course of its 8-year lifetime. It is also designed with Gregorian reflector antennae, which are antennas that offer high gains for radio signals that need to be transmitted over long distances.

An ambitious 5-year pipeline

The GSLV-F11/GSAT-7A mission will be ISRO's last in 2018, with the launch of Chandrayaan-2 and the PSLV-C44 remote-sensing satellite launch lined up in January 2019.

The agency has seven missions lined up in 2019, alongside work on its first ever human spaceflight mission, Gaganyaan, marked for December 2021. There will be two unmanned missions leading up to the manned mission to conduct ground tests, reliability tests and ensure a smooth landing before ISRO's chosen one — the GSLV Mark III — is rated human-spaceflight-ready.

ISRO also has multiple interplanetary missions in its pipeline over the next few years: the Chandrayaan-2 mission in January 2019, the Aditya L1 probe to the Sun's orbit in 2019, the Mangalyaan-2 mission to Mars in 2022/2023 and the Shukrayaan mission to Venus in 2023.

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