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First naval satellite may be launched this year

Kalyan Ray, New Delhi, March 1, 2013, DHNS: 10:32 IST
India’s first military satellite may be launched later this year with the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) securing the service of a foreign rocket to launch the 2.5 tonne satellite for the Navy.

The UPA government had sanctioned more than Rs 400 crore to book a berth for its GSAT-7 satellite on a commercial Ariane-5 rocket launched by the French company “Arianespace”. The rockets are launched from Kourou, the company’s launch pad in French Guiana.

The 2013-14 budget allocates only a meagre Rs 14 crore for the GSAT-7 launch service.
But the revised estimates of 2012-13 let out the crucial information. In the last fiscal, the government initially sanctioned Rs 207 crore for the launch service but later raised the allocation by more than double to Rs 448.51 crore, signalling advanced launch vehicle booking for the naval satellite. Isro does not officially admit GSAT-7 as a naval satellite, but navy officials confirmed it as being the first naval platform in space.

GSAT-7 is a user funded communication satellite, which was initially planned for launch on-board GSLV. But in the absence of an operational GSLV and due to the “schedule criticality” of the satellite, provision is made for the launch through procured launch service, says the budget document. In the last year’s document, Isro said in the absence of GSLV, permission from the government was sought for the foreign launch of the military payload. The generous hike of Rs 241 crore is a clear indication of the go-ahead from the government.

Isro’s 2011-12 annual report said the satellite employs standard 2.5 tonne bus platform with a power handling capability of around 2,600 W and a lift-off mass of 2,550 kg.

A year ago, the space agency in its 2010-2011 annual report stated GSAT-7 was a multi-band satellite carrying payloads in ultra-high frequency, S-band, C-band and Ku-band.

The satellite is meant to link up various naval warships and submarines pushing the navy closer to network centric operations.

The Isro’s budget has been enhanced to Rs 6,792 crore from last fiscal’s revised estimate of Rs 4,880 crore, which is an increase of Rs 1,912 crore. .

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