Isro leaps high in space diplomacy

No doubt, the latest satellite from India, popular by the name South Asia Satellite, is a big step in space diplomacy. And as presented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Saarc summit in 2014, it has come to fruition in quick time too.

By bearing all the costs of this project, the satellite took three years to make and Rs 235 crore went into it. Being a unique gesture, never before has a country offered such a service.

Until now, India benefited from its space technology; now the support is extended to our neighbours as well. The goodwill act may invite its own share of censure, but there are 1.5 billion people who will come under the cover of this project and will each have their own thanks to convey to India and Isro at large.

Though the Saarc nations are collaborating with China or Europe to procure satellites, space technology is a highly costly affair for any nation. Booming space economics only goes to show the eagerness of nations to venture in this sector. In these technologically driven times, many of these nations remain constrained by lack of satellite communication facilities to improve their economy.

Hence, this satellite, with the primary costs borne by us, comes across as a valuable gift to the people of these nations who will get ample technological growth and leverage. These countries, however, have to provide the required ground-based infrastructure to support the satellite communication services.

But behind all the display of technology prowess and political curtains, the launch of the massive 2,230 kg space object has added another feather to Isro’s cap and all the while upholding its primary objective: to utilise satellite technology for people and not for military strength.

The Isro politely refuses all other nomenclature for this satellite and refers to it as GSAT-9. It yet again proves its primary mission, from its days of inception, to progress toward technological self-sufficiency in developing and launching satellites, while the space technology is harnessed for the development of society and humankind at large.

The benefits of satellite communication are irreplaceable as land-based systems are fraught with numerous limitations.

The participating nations in this project are small, economically struggling and geographically challenged. Many of these countries have rough terrains where land-based communication systems are unfathomable and near impossible to install, making remote areas totally cut-off from the mainland.

In addition, they are frequently prone to natural calamities like earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, and floods. Satellite communication at such times becomes invaluable when ground-based networks are destroyed and there are precious lives and resources to save.

This is exactly the purpose of GSAT-9, whose sensors are positioned to scan these regions, and built to last for 12 years, which is a long tenure. The GSAT-9 operates on the Ku-band (a specified frequency range), with a payload of 2.3kW, which will provide communication and disaster support to all these nations.

It is capable of establishing secure hotlines between these nations at such times. The 12 transponders of this satellite will help the nations to map natural resources, provide better IT connectivity, and facilitate tele-education and telemedicine.

E-governance progress
The improved communication will also see a marked progress in e-governance, banking/ATM services, mobile networking back-haul, and connecting academic and research institutions.

One direct benefit of this facility is better DTH signalling, where the people will be able to telecast their own programmes. Considering the fact that most of these nations are tourism-dependent, this could prove to be advantageous to their economy directly or indirectly.

In a broader perspective, the launch of this satellite is another step in assuring these countries that they too can aim for the skies. As far as space explorations are concerned, the world has witnessed advanced nations coming forward to bury the hatchet; they continue to join hands for combined space ventures, sharing space stations, and signing treaties to share space- resources.

The smooth launch and positioning of GSAT-9 were celebrated by the respective premiers of the participating nations. Today, Isro stands as one among the top six space agencies in the world, providing quality services in satellite technology.

By keeping its objectives intact, this peace-keeping gesture may be a big idea and a forerunner to a future where all man-made boundaries will dissolve, hopefully, at least in space.

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