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Satnews Daily
October 24th, 2016

South Asian Satellite Launch Looks "Iffy"

In a story posted by Rediff News, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious South Asian satellite project, announced two years ago, is likely to miss the December deadline—the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to launch their GSLV Mark III that month.

ISRO's GSLV-Mark III launch vehicle.

According to a senior ISRO official, the organization has been launching at least one satellite every month, so their calendar is  packed and, at this point of time, it looks difficult to launch the South Asian satellite in December. That satellite could get delayed by a month or so.

Launching GSLV Mark III will be a crucial development in the country's space history. The launch vehicle is likely to be sent into  space by the close of December.

"Work on GSLV Mark III is in progress, but the date for the launch is yet to be determined. The project will help ISRO launch satellites weighing around four tons," ISRO chairman and Department of Space Secretary, A. S. Kirankumar, stated.

ISRO currently has the capability of launching satellites weighing up to 2.2 tons and launched two satellites in September. The ISRO's expectation is that October will also see the launch of two additional satellites. On August 28, the organization conducted the first experimental mission using the Scramjet Engine.

The delay in the South Asian satellite comes at a time when the regional grouping's annual summit in Islamabad has been called off, following escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Uri terror attack.

"We are working on the South Asian satellite project, but no date for launch has been finalized," Kirankumar said.

Prime Minister Modi, during the regional bloc's 2014 Summit in Kathmandu, had announced launching of a SAARC Satellite as a 'gift' to its neighbors in order to expand information sharing and connectivity within the region. SAARC had come into being on December 8, 1985, and the initial plan was to initiate satellite operations in December of this year. However, Pakistan opposed the move and demanded that the satellite be brought under the control of the group, which was unacceptable to India. The name was changed to South Asian Satellite. Barring Afghanistan and Pakistan, all other SAARC countries have given their go-ahead to the project.

Even as the political leadership of Afghanistan has given an in-principle nod to the project, there are some technical issues involved which are preventing Afghanistan from giving its final consent and the "technical teams of two countries are sorting it out."

Another reason for the delay in launching the South Asian satellite was the cancellation of the SAARC Summit in Islamabad, now scheduled next month, a source said. This has given ISRO the time to focus on their GSLV Mark III launcher. Sources indicated that once GSLV Mark III is launched, India will not have to depend on others for sending its heavy satellites in space, which it currently does from Guiana Space Center near Kourou in French Guiana.

A substantial amount of the money earned from India's launching of light-weight foreign satellites using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle goes into hiring the launchpad in Kourou.