Isro lifts foreign satellites, gives Modi Saarc dream

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In yet another milestone in space technology, India on Monday launched five foreign satellites on board an indigenous rocket, prompting prime minister Narendra Modi to ask Indian scientists to develop a Saarc satellite, which can be dedicated as a ‘gift’ to the neighbours.

After a perfect liftoff from the first launch pad in Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 9.52 am, which was witnessed by Modi, Indian Space Research Organisation’s workhorse polar satellite launch vehicle PSLV-C23 placed all five satellites into their intended orbits, one after the other between 17 and 19 minutes of the launch, in textbook precision.

Besides its primary payload of 714 kg French earth observation satellite SPOT-7, the rocket carried and placed in orbit 14 kg AISAT of Germany, NLS7.1 (CAN-X4) and NLS7.2 (CAN-X5) of Canada, each weighing 15 kg, and the 7 kg VELOX-1 of Singapore.

The five satellites were launched under commercial arrangements that Antrix (Isro’s commercial arm) with the respective foreign agencies.

Modi, who witnessed the launch from Isro’s mission control room, made a pitch for satellite diplomacy, asking scientists to develop a Saarc satellite that could be of use to India’s neighbours.

In his first official visit to this spaceport, the prime minister said, “Today I ask you, the space community, to take up the challenge of developing a Saarc satellite that we can dedicate to our neighbourhood as a gift from India.”

“Such a satellite will be helpful in Saarc nations’ fight against poverty and illiteracy, the challenge to progress in scientific field, and will open up avenues to provide opportunities to the youth of the Saarc countries,” he said.

Though the mission readiness review committee and launch authorisation board had cleared the launch on Friday, the launch time was rescheduled to 9.52 am on Monday, a delay of three minutes, attributed to ‘probable space debris’ coming in the rocket’s way.

India’s age-old ethos of vasudhaiva kutumbakam (the world is a family) spurred the need for a Saarc satellite, Modi said, adding that the fruits of technological advancement must be shared with those who do not enjoy them.

“We provide benefits of telemedicine to Afghanistan and African countries. But we must do more. ‘Yeh dil maange more’ (the heart desires for more),” Modi said repeating a famous tagline.

The prime minister said the successful launch of the foreign satellites was a ‘global endorsement’ of India’s space capabilities developed by ‘our brilliant scientists’.

Besides Modi, AP chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, Andhra Pradesh governor E S L Narasimhan and union minister M Venkaiah Naidu witnessed the launch from the Sriharikota spaceport, about 100 km from Chennai.

French satellite SPOT 7, identical to SPOT-6, which Isro had launched in 2012, would be placed diametrically opposite to SPOT-6, forming part of the existing earth observation satellite. European space technology company Airbus Defence and Space has built SPOT-7. SPOT-7 will cover an area 10 times the size of France.

Germany’s AISAT satellite would focus on the global sea-traffic monitoring system with special emphasis on high traffic zones using AIS signals. It is also Germany’s first DLR satellite in the nano-satellite class.

Isro has so far launched 35 satellites from 19 countries around the globe — Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Singapore, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Turkey and the UK, bringing a huge sum to the country as foreign exchange.

The space programme and its scientists came in for generous praise from the PM, who said today’s success “fills every Indian’s heart with pride.” “India’s advanced space programme puts her in an elite global group of 5-6 countries today. This is one domain in which we are at international cutting edge, pushing beyound mediocrity to achieve excellence,” Modi said.


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