The successful launch of India’s 41st communication satellite, the GSAT-30 early on 17th January, 2020 was a crucial step to ensure uninterrupted communication services when the 14-year-old INSAT-4A ceases to function at the end of its working life very soon. INSAT 4A is being used by Indian cable operators for broadcasting their programmes overseas. GSAT-30 would allow them to continue these services for 15 more years over an extended area.
GSAT-30 was launched by the Ariane-5 rocket of Arianespace from the Guiana Space Centre, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. GSAT-30 is the 24th Indian satellite to be launched by Arianespace, which had launched India’s first communication satellite ‘APPLE’ back in 1981. In the latest flight, Ariane-5 also carried the EUTELSAT KONNECT, a new generation satellite that will provide telecommunication services across Europe and Africa.
With a mission life of 15 years, GSAT-30 is a “high power” communication satellite of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) with a unique configuration of providing flexible frequency segments and flexible coverage. It will serve as replacement for the INSAT-4A, which is nearing the end of its operational life, to maintain uninterrupted communication services. Equipped with 12 C and 12 Ku band transponders, GSAT-30 will enhance television broadcasting and direct-to-home (DTH) services. While Ku-band transponders would provide coverage to Indian mainland and the islands, the C-band would allow two-way communication and enable television broadcasters to beam their programmes over India, Gulf countries, several Asian countries and Australia. According to ISRO, the payload design has been improved to maximise the number of transponders on the satellite body. This will provide improved coverage and will enable Indian broadcasters to air content in the Middle East, Australia and other parts of Asia.
According to the Indian space agency, the spacecraft would provide continuity to the existing VSAT or Very Small Aperture Terminal network, television up-linking and teleport services, DTH television services, and many other satellite-based applications. It will also help maintain Digital Satellite News Gathering systems, which allow news reporters to broadcast from remote locations, far off from their TV studios in India in real-time, covering all countries from Europe in the west to Australia in the east.
According to ISRO, GSAT-30 has been built to last through the 2030s using new and advanced technologies. In order to maintain its heavy launch schedule, in recent years, ISRO has been taking the support of a cluster of mid-sized industries to speed up building routine spacecraft at its premises. The assembly of GSAT-30 was done by a consortium led by Alpha Design Technologies Ltd. The GSAT-30 was assembled at the ISRO Satellite Integration & Test Establishment in Bengaluru.
ISRO’s decision to launch GSAT-30 by foreign rockets is a demonstration of the space agency’s pragmatic approach to ensure uninterrupted satellite-based communication links for its users, which is essential for maintaining its credibility.
According to ISRO Chairman Dr. K Sivan, ISRO will be outsourcing the production of rockets for launching satellites in future. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) would lead a consortium that would build the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which has been ISRO’s workhorse for years. The consortium would also build heavier, Geo-Stationary Launch Vehicle (GSLV) class rockets. According to ISRO, of the Rs. 300 billion has been sanctioned by the government for various programs – including Rs. 100 billion for ‘Gaganyaan’, India’s manned space mission – 80 per cent of it would go to the private sector.
ISRO is now gearing up to send the first Indians to space from Indian soil. The first Indian crew is scheduled to be sent to a low-earth orbit before the 75th anniversary of the country’s Independence in 2022. With a chain of successes behind it, ISRO can hopefully look forward to achieving it.
Script: Biman Basu, Senior Science Commentator