GSAT-7, ISRO’s newest communication satellite, meant for exclusive use of the Navy, is all set to be launched between 2 a.m. and 2.50 a.m. (IST) on August 30 from Kourou in South America on a European Ariane 5 launcher.
The satellite is expected to give a big boost to the country’s maritime security and intelligence gathering in a wide swathe of the Indian Ocean region.
Built to the Navy’s multiple-band requirements as platform to safely link up its ships, submarines, aircraft and command from land in real time, it is also the country’s first full-fledged military communication spacecraft. Until now the defence forces have used minuscule capacities on ISRO’s various INSAT/GSAT satellites.
It will be doubly empowered when its sibling, GSAT-7A, follows it in 2014-15 at the earliest; it is said to share some of the GSAT-7A resources with the Air Force and the Army.
The project is said to cost Rs. 950 crore, almost half of it for the foreign launch and part funded by the Force in an underplayed civil-defence partnership.
For the Navy, this is part of a long-term modernisation plan involving the use of satellites and information technology. In recent years successive Chiefs of Naval Staff have identified space-based communications as the core of the Navy’s futuristic network-centric operations.
Addressing senior naval officers in October 2009, Defence Minister A.K.Antony had said, “The launch of the Naval Communication satellite [next year] will significantly improve connectivity at sea.” ISRO could not launch it as planned in 2010 as it does not have the rocket to lift a satellite of this mass.
To be placed over 74 degrees East longitude in the coming days, the 2,650-kg satellite is designed to enable communication in four frequency bands ranging from the lower UHF (ultra high frequency) to the higher Ku bands, along with the rare S band and the commonly used C band.
It provides a decent slice of 15 mHz of the premium S-band for MSS (mobile satellite services); the S-band is now the preserve of the military and strategic State users including All India Radio.
Neither the Indian Space Research Organisation – the country’s civil space agency which has built the spacecraft and will control it in space during its nine-year lifetime – nor the Navy shared the finer aspects of the mission conceived at least five years back.
According to information gathered from two satellite communication experts, the UHF has never been used until now in an Indian communication satellite; this gives the user (Navy) a long sweep of intelligence network, or what it calls COMINT/ELINT, on moving non-land platforms like ships.
The Ku band allows high-density data transmission, including voice and video.
The 3,000-watt power on board is also higher than normal as it has to communicate with smaller and mobile - meaning not land-based – terminals, according to one of them. A special ground infrastructure has also been put in place for GSAT-7.
Arianespace, the launch service company, said GSAT-7 will be the 17th ISRO satellite to be lifted to space on its Ariane vehicle. Its vehicle for Friday, VA215, will release the national satellite minutes after a 6-tonne Qatar satellite called EUTELSAT 25B/ / Es’hail 1. ISRO first used an Ariane launcher for its 1981 experimental satellite APPLE.