Countdown for India's advanced satellite launch begins Sunday

GSAT-5P will blast off to space from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, around 80 km from here.

Speaking to IANS, Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) director (publications and public relations) S. Satish said: "All the activities prior to the countdown are progressing well. The  geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) will fly with GSAT-5P (atop it) Monday evening."

The GSLV rocket is 51 metres tall, weighs 418 tonnes and costs around Rs.175 crore (Rs.1.75 billion). The satellite, with a payload of 2,310 kg, has a price tag of Rs.125 crore.

ISRO successfully conducted the launch rehearsal Friday without the rocket's second and third stage engines being filled with liquid and cryogenic fuel respectively.

ISRO officials told IANS that the process of filling the liquid and cryogenic fuel will begin during the countdown and end 30 minutes before the actual flight.

The onboard gases will be filled to the required pressure and the rocket's electronics will also be checked, officials said.

The GSAT-5P satellite, with a mission life of over 13 years, has 36 transponders, an automatic receiver and transmitter of communication and broadcast signals.

Successful launch of the satellite will take the agency's transponder capacity to around 235 from 200 in orbit now.

According to Satish, ISRO has the following communication satellites in service - INSAT 2E, INSAT 3A, INSAT 3B, INSAT 3C, INSAT 3E, INSAT 4A, INSAT 4CR and INSAT 4B working at 50 percent capability.

This year, ISRO has launched two major satellites - communication satellite GSAT-4 and remote sensing satellite Cartosat-2. While the launch of GSAT-4 failed as the GSLV rocket carrying it plunged into the sea due to an engine failure, Cartosat-2 was placed successfully in the orbit.

ISRO has till date sent up six GSLV rockets with satellites, of which only two missions were full successes and one a partial victory. The rest could not accomplish their mission of slinging the satellite into their intended path of orbit.

The two successful launches were in 2003 and 2004, and put into space an experimental communication satellite GSAT-2 and another for educational purposes Edusat. Monday's launch is to replace Insat2E, that was intended to cater to Asia and Australia.

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