The space agency said that the GSAT-9 was configured around the ISRO’s standard I-2K bus, with a lift-off mass of 2,230 kg, has been fabricated in three years and is purely a communications satellite costing Rs 450 crore.

According to ISRO official, The satellite’s main structure is cuboid in shape, built around a central cylinder with a mission life of more than 12 years, nearly 50-m-tall rocket that weighs about 412 tonnes will carry what is now dubbed as the ‘South Asia Satellite’ or what the Isro still prefers to call GSAT-9.

Special Correspondent

Data from GSAT-9 will be shared with Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It was also offered to Pakistan, which turned it down. India is also working with Afghanistan but a deal has still not be ironed out.

At least one transponder of this satellite will be available to the participating countries, Each country has to develop its own ground infrastructure though India is willing to extend assistance and know-how.

India tried to emulate international collaboration in space exploration and technology European Space Agency which has more than 20 countries as members.

But even before concrete steps in that direction could be taken, Pakistan, which had earlier agreed to be part of the collaborative effort to build and design the satellite, pulled out, given India a set back forcing a change in the name from ‘SAARC satellite’ to ‘South Asia satellite’

In the South Asian region, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are the only two countries to have launched communication satellites. Both took the help of China.

Afghanistan has leased a part of French telecommunication satellite, Eutelsat 48D, for its use, while Bangladesh is planning to launch its own satellite, Bangabandhu-1, later this year.

It is no coincidence that China has helped launch communication satellites for both Sri Lanka and Pakistan with which it has a growing partnership in space technology. For India, it was also a little disappointing to know that some of the other countries in the region, like Bangladesh, were taking the help of western countries in running their space programme when ISRO could offer comparable services at a fraction of the cost.

The South Asia satellite is therefore also an attempt by ISRO to look for newer markets for its services in the immediate neighbourhood. ISRO has so far launched satellites for 23 countries, but none of them happen to be from SAARC region.

The South Asia Satellite is India’s plan to counter China’s growing influence on its neighbours. But in the 21st-century Asian space race, China already has the first mover advantage.

After today successful launch, Prime Minister Modi tweeted to congratulate the scientists involved in the project.

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