SAARC satellite to be launched by December 2016: ISRO

Bengaluru, June 26 (IANS) India will launch a dedicated satellite for the eight SAARC countries by December 2016 to provide a range of public services, space agency chief A.S. Kiran Kumar said on Friday.

“The two-tonne satellite will have 12 Ku band transponders, with each dedicated to one country in the region for providing communication, education, tele-medicine, disaster monitoring and other need-based services,” the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman told reporters here.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed an exclusive satellite for nations in the region as a gift as India is the only one with capability to build and launch satellites for communications, earth observations and space sciences.

The South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (Saarc) was formed in 1985 with Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as its seven members and expanded subsequently to include Afghanistan.

At the last Saarc summit in Katmandu on November 26-27, 2014, heads of the region endorsed Modi’s proposal for such a satellite on the lines of regional satellites in Europe and North America.

“At a Saarc meeting in Delhi on June 22, experts finalised modalities to have a dedicated satellite for the region. Five representatives from each country, including Pakistan participated in the meeting,” Kiran Kumar said on margins of a science event.

On approval by the Modi government, the state-run space agency will take 18 months to build the satellite at its centre in Bengaluru and launch the spacecraft from its spaceport at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

“All going well, we hope to put a Saarc satellite in the geostationary orbit by December next year (2016) as we need 18 months to build and launch it,” the ISRO chief Kumar said after chairing a session on “Contribution of Indian Institute of Science to strategic sectors” at the IISc alumni global conference here.

The ministry of external affairs is coordinating with its counterparts in the region on details of their needs.

“We plan to have a Saarc consortium for future space programmes for the benefit of the region on lines of the European space consortium, as each country will have some capability such as ground station for specific needs like direct-to-home (DTH) link and tele-connectivity,” Kiran Kumar added.

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