National space agency ISRO has decided to launch one of its upcoming communication satellites, GSAT-16, six months earlier than planned.
The 3,100-kg spacecraft, meant to support public and private television and radio services, large-scale Internet and telephone operations, was originally planned to be flown up around June 2015 on a European Ariane-5 launcher.
The decision to advance GSAT-16 launch came after the older INSAT-3E expired in March this year, according to ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan.
The plan to move an ISRO mission ahead is almost unprecedented. “GSAT-16 will replace INSAT-3E [in the same space orbit at 55 degrees East longitude]. It was planned to be launched in the middle of 2015. After 3E was decommissioned in April, we advanced GSAT-16, which will now go in December this year,” he told The Hindu recently.
The assembly venue in Bangalore, the ISRO Satellite Centre or ISAC, is ready with the spacecraft. “Advancing a satellite by five to six months is a difficult job, but we did it. We also got a slot from [launch company] Arianespace and as of now, we are talking of a launch [around] December 6,” he said. An earliest launch would otherwise have been April 2015.
GSAT-16 will offer 24 transponders in the C-band, 12 in the extended C-band and another 12 in the Ku band.
Over the last couple of years, the space agency has been trying hard to augment transponder capacity — which is about 190 on its own fleet — to meet increasing demand from commercial and public service users. It also had to lease 90 transponders on foreign satellites to meet its shortfall.
Last year, the government approved an allocation of Rs. 865.5 crore towards building GSAT-16, the fee for its foreign launch and insurance; the latter is taken when ISRO uses a foreign launch.
ISRO had to opt for an outside launch as Indian rockets PSLV and the present GSLV cannot lift satellites weighing above 2,000 kg. ISRO is developing the next big launcher, GSLV-MkIII, which can put satellites of up to 4 tonnes in orbit.