Rounding off the year 2018, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Wednesday successfully launched a military communication satellite GSAT-7A, primarily for the Indian Air Force, in a text-book style.
At 4.10 p.m. the GSLV-F11 rocket ascended into the sky from the second launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre with a long fiery orange flame at its tail. Slightly over 19 minutes into its flight, the Indian rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-F11 (GSLV-F11) rocket slung the satellite in a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).
The GSAT-7A will be pushed up further to its final geostationary orbit firing its onboard motors in the days to come. The ISRO scientists at the rocket mission control centre were visibly happy when an announcement was made about the successful separation of the satellite from the rocket.
"Today the GSLV-F11 rocket safely injected GSAT-7A in a super-synchronous transfer orbit. One of the unique features of the rocket is the complete burn-out of its cryogenic engine. As a result, we got 2,000 km more than what we had expected. This has increased the lifespan of GSAT-7A," said ISRO Chairman K. Sivan soon after the successful mission.
The GSAT-7A is the heaviest communication satellite to be lifted by a GSLV Mk II rocket. The 2,250 kg GSAT-7A is the 35th communication satellite built by ISRO. The satellite will beef up the communication capabilities of the IAF.
The satellite's lifespan is projected as eight years. It would enable IAF to link its ground radar stations, its airbases and Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) planes. The satellite may also control IAF's unmanned aerial vehicles and drones.
The GSLV is a three-stage/engine rocket. The core of the first stage is fired with solid fuel while liquid fuel fires the four strap-on motors. The second is the liquid fuel and the third is the cryogenic engine.
A cryogenic engine is more efficient as it provides more thrust for every kilogram of propellant burnt. This is the second dedicated military communication satellite to be launched. The first, GSAT-7 or Rukmini, was launched in 2013, for use by the Indian Navy.
Earlier the satellites were of dual-use, for civilian and defence purposes. "There is increased demand for satellites from strategic sectors. About six/seven satellites are planned to be built," a senior ISRO official told IANS requesting anonymity.
In November, ISRO put into orbit the sharp-eyed HysIS satellite for a range of applications. The data generated by it will also be accessible by the Indian military. With this successful launch, India established the performance of its GSLV rocket which in future may fetch orders from third parties for launching their satellites.
India at present puts into orbit foreign satellites for a fee using its lighter rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), as its weight carrying capacity is lower. Revenue for launching satellites depends on the weight of the satellite -- higher the weight, higher will be the revenue.
"This year completed 17 rocket/satellite missions. The next year will have 32 rocket/satellite missions," Sivan told ISRO officials. The next year's missions include the complex Chandrayaan-2 or the moon mission.
(With inputs from agencies.)