ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) which received praise & laurels from various space
agencies around the globe for successfully launching the Mangalyaan on it’s very first attempt in November 2014 on a shoestring budget is set to achieve another milestone by launching the South Asia Satellite on May 5 this year from it’s launching Station ‘Satish Dhawan Space Centre’ at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi,during the 18th SAARC summit in Nepal in 2014,first mooted the idea of Indian scientists making a satellite serving the needs of SAARC member nations under his ‘Neighbourhood first policy.’ Prime Minister termed this satellite as a ‘gift’ to all SAARC members & to strengthen the ties of India with the neighbouring countries.
South Asia on map
One month after being sworn in as Prime Minister of India, in June 2014 Modi asked ISRO to develop a SAARC satellite, which can be dedicated as a ‘gift’ to the neighbours. He asked the scientists to work on a satellite that would provide a full range of applications and services to all of India’s neighbours. Modi in a press conference said, “There is a lot of poverty in the SAARC nations and we need scientific solutions for this.” While addressing the Sri Lankan Parliament in March 2015, Narendra Modi said “Sri Lanka will take full benefit of India’s satellite for the SAARC Region. This should be in Space by December 2016”.
Furthermore, India is the only nation in South Asia to have successfully launched and operate satellites in space while other South Asian nations have struggled and lacked in such progress & match the standard of the counterpart ISRO who has excelled in the field of space & received widespread appraisal.
The satellite made by ISRO has a lift-off mass of 1,295 kg & is fitted with 12 Ku-band transponders (36 Mhz each) and will be launched using the Indian Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV Mk-II. The total cost of launching the satellite is estimated to be about ₹235 crore. The cost associated was met by the Government of India alone.
The satellite enables full range of applications and services in the areas of telecommunication and broadcasting applications viz television (TV), direct-to-home (DTH), very small aperture terminals (VSATs), tele-education, tele-medicine and disaster management support.
AS Kiran Kumar, Chirman of ISRO said, “Basically, it (the satellite) is meant for providing communication and disaster support, connectivity among States (countries of South Asia region). It will provide a significant capability to each of these participating States in terms of DTH, certain VSAT capacity plus linking among the states for both disaster information transfer and also in terms of library type of things.”. “So, there is a significant amount of inter-linking possible among the States (these countries),” he further added.
According to ISRO scientists the satellite will have a life expectancy of at least 12 years. The satellite was earlier called as SAARC satellite as it was to cover the whole SAARC region. But then Pakistan decided to back off from this project. Pakistan’s concerns that the satellite could allow India to have access to secure key data and sensitive information database infrastructure led them to back out from the program.
During the 70th UN meeting in New York City held on 20 September 2015, officials from India and Pakistan debated over the ownership and control of the satellite. On 2 October 2015, India announced that it has decided that India can go ahead with building the satellite, without Pakistan’s consent.
On 23 March 2016, Vikas Swarup,official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs of India said “Pakistan has decided to opt-out of the satellite project. So it cannot be called a
SAARC satellite. It will be a South Asia satellite “.
Hence the name of the satellite was changed to South Asian Satellite(SAS).
India now plans to launch the geosynchronous communications & metereology satellite on May 5 that will benefit all the countries in the region, except Pakistan which is not a part of the project.