GSAT-7, India’s first full-fledged military communications satellite, was launched in the early hours of Friday from the Kourou spaceport of French Guiana in South America.
The multiple-band spacecraft will be used exclusively by the Navy to shore up secure, real-time communications among its warships, submarines, aircraft and land systems. GSAT-7/ INSAT-4F is said to significantly improve the country’s maritime security and intelligence gathering in a wide swathe on the eastern and western flanks of the Indian Ocean region. Around 2014-15, ISRO is expected to launch the second naval satellite, GSAT-7A.
At 2 a.m., a European Ariane 5 rocket carrying the domestic satellite and a Qatar spacecraft took off from Kourou and released GSAT-7 into a temporary oval orbit about 35,900 km high, Indian Space Research Organisation said.
The Master Control Facility at Hassan, about 180 km from here, picked up its signals immediately and opened its power generating solar panels.
“Initial checks have indicated normal health of the satellite. The present orbit will be raised to [a circular] geostationary orbit of about 36,000 km altitude over the equator by September 4 through three orbit raising manoeuvres,” ISRO said.
ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan was at Hassan since Thursday ahead of the first firing in the early hours of Saturday. By September 14, it is planned to be pushed into its final slot at 74 degrees East longitude.
In a post-launch address at Kourou, ISRO Satellite Centre Director S.K. Shivakumar said GSAT-7 would be functionally readied for the user by September-end. The payloads would be switched on in a week.
The 2,650-kg GSAT-7 is the last of ISRO’s seven fourth-generation satellites. Its foreign launch cost has been put at Rs. 480 crore, with the satellite costing Rs. 185 crore.
Part funded by the Navy, it is built to meet the Navy’s a long-term modernisation plan that includes use of satellites and information technology. Chiefs of Naval Staff have highlighted space-based communications as vital for its network-centric operations.
According to satellite communication experts, the UHF band is being used for the first time in an INSAT and will boost communication and intelligence network across a wide region.
The premium S band will enable communication from mobile platforms like ships. The Ku band allows high-density data transmission, including voice and video. A special ground infrastructure has also been created.
For European launch company Arianespace, this was the 17th ISRO satellite since 1981.