India’s heaviest satellite launched from Kourou launch pad in French Guiana

GSAT-10, the country's newest and heaviest satellite, was launched in the wee hours of Saturday from the Kourou launchpad in French Guiana in South America. It will directly boost telecommunications and direct-to-home broadcasting among others.

The satellite, 9th in ISRO's present fleet, will be operational in November and add 30 transponders to the domestic INSAT system, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said soon after the launch.

The ISRO launched the 3.4-tonne spacecraft on the European Ariane 5 rocket as the agency cannot currently launch satellites of such mass on its own vehicles. The satellite and the launch fee cost the agency Rs. 750 crore.

The ISRO called its 101st mission "a grand success," adding that the satellite was in good health.

ISRO's Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space, Dr. K. Radhakrishnan, and senior scientists have been at the Master Control Facility, Hassan (some 80 km from Bangalore) since Friday evening. It is also the first time that the Chairman was not present at the launch site.

Other Indian scientists present at Kourou included Director, Satellite communications, Prahlad Rao and Project Director T.K.Anuradha.

What the satellite brings

It carries 30 communication transponders - 12 in Ku-band, 12 in C-band and six in extended C-band. The ISRO is currently leasing 95 foreign transpondes to meet domestic demand. The INSAT/GSAT system has 168 transponders.

The Ku band is vital for seven DTH TV operators and thousands of VSAT operators who provide phone and Internet broadband connections. Public and private telephone and television providers also use the C band.

GSAT-10 also has the second GAGAN payload which augments or finetunes the US GPS signals into far more accurate readings. GAGAN, a venture of the Department of Sapce and Airports authority of India, is primarily meant to benefit airlines and their aircraft flying into and out of India. GSAT-8, launched in May 2008, carried the first GAGAN payload.

The flight at 2.58 a.m. IST was preceded by a countdown lasting for 11.5 hours. By 3.19 a.m. it was visible to scientists waiting to capture its signals at Hassan.

"MCF took over command and control of the satellite immediately after the injection. Preliminary health checks on various subsystems such as power, thermal, command, sensors, control etc., have been performed and all parameters have been found to be satisfactory. The satellite has been oriented towards Earth and the Sun using the onboard propulsion systems," the agency said.

In the coming days, MCF scientists will perform routine manoeuvres to "raise" the elliptical orbit into a circular orbit with 24-hour rotation around the Earth and fixed at 83 degrees East slot over the Indian region at 36,000 km above ground. They will do this by firing the apogee motors on board the satellite in three steps.

Later the antenna, solar panels and other instruments will be deployed and switched on.

Built for 15 years, GSAT 10 will be co-located with InSAT-4A and GSAT-12.

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