Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is all set to launch the GSAT-9 satellite into space today. Hailed as PM Narendra Modi’s ‘priceless gift’, the satellite built by India’s space agency, will not only boost our ‘neighbourhood first’ policy but also make new inroads into space diplomacy in the region and the world. GSAT-9, the South Asia Communication Satellite that is aimed to boost connectivity among nations in the South Asian region, will be launched at 4.57pm on Friday, according to a PTI report. While the skies above the island of Sriharikota on the coast of the Bay of Bengal will be lit up as the Geo- synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle goes to carry a message of peace, one question should be answered: Why is it popularly termed as the ‘naughty boy’?
While ISRO PSLV’s (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle ) has been quite popular and successful, the other vehicle, GSLV has been called by many as ISRO’s ‘naughty boy’. In the year 2001, the first prototype of GSLV got its first test flight. However, unfortunately, GSLV has witnessed seven launches out of which there have been four failures. The first of the GSLV’s failures came on the rocket’s maiden flight in April 2001; with the third stage cutting off earlier than planned, leaving GSAT-1 in a lower than planned orbit. Two years after the failure, GSLV posted its first success with the launch of GSAT-2 in May 2003.
One can hope that the GSAT-9 will be a success story and act as a reward to Indian Space Research Organisation’s two-decade long effort to master the crucial cryogenic propulsion technology. This will enable launches of heavy communications satellites on their own, taking up bigger space missions and also compete against bigger nations in satellite launch services. Over the last few years, Isro has built a brand for itself in the global space market, by building and launching small satellites at much lower costs than many countries via its workhorse rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
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The GSLV is a three-stage vehicle with solid, liquid and cryogenic propulsion systems. A cryogenic rocket stage is more efficient and provides more thrust for every kilogramme of propellant it burns compared with solid and liquid propellant rocket stages. But is also technically complex because of the use of propellants at extremely low temperatures and the associated thermal and structural problems.
GSLV-F09 mission is the eleventh flight of GSLV and its fourth consecutive flight with the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS). GSAT-9 is a Geostationary Communication Satellite with the objective to provide various communication applications in Ku-band with coverage over South Asian countries. The GSAT-9 spacecraft is a 2,230-kilogram satellite based on ISRO’s I-2K bus. The main structure of the satellite is cuboid in shape built around a central cylinder with a mission life of more than 12 years and is expected to support education, medical, disaster management and communications initiatives as well as international cooperation between South Asian countries.
Today’s launch, designated GSLV F09, is the fifth flight of the Mark II GSLV which debuted in April 2010. This replaced the Mark I, which first flew in 2001 and made its final flight at the end of 2010, introducing an Indian-developed third stage engine instead of a Russian-built engine flown on the Mark I. With this new cryogenic propulsion system, the GSLV Mk.II is a fully indigenous vehicle.
The South Asia Satellite program is a partnership between India and most of the other member nations of SAARC: Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan has not yet signed up to the program, while Pakistan has opted out of it.