GSAT-8 launched, PM congratulates scientists

Bangalore: India`s advanced communication satellite GSAT-8, which is aimed at augmenting direct to home TV broadcast services, was on Saturday successfully launched by Arianespace from Kourou in French Guiana.

GSAT-8 was injected into space by European launcher Arianespace`s Ariane 5 rocket which lifted-off at 02.08 am (IST), with Japan`s ST-2 spacecraft as co-passenger.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated the Department of Space for the successful launch of the communication satellite. Singh rang up Space Secretary K Radhakrishnan at the launch site and conveyed his greetings.

With a design life exceeding 12 years, GSAT-8, which weighs 3,100 kg, is one of the heaviest and high-powered satellites built by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

The satellite carried 24 transponders to augment India`s Ku-band relay capabilities – primarily for direct-to-home TV broadcast services – with a coverage zone including the entire Indian subcontinent.

Additionally, GSAT-8 carried the two-channel GAGAN system for aircraft navigation assistance over Indian airspace and adjoining areas.

The total project cost was around Rs 600 crore. While the cost of the satellite was around Rs 250 crore, Rs 300 was the launch cost. The insurance cost was around Rs 30 crore.

ISRO said Ariane 5 placed GSAT-8 into the intended Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) of 35,861 km apogee (away from Earth) and 258 km perigee (close to Earth), with an orbital inclination of 2.503 deg with respect to equator.

"Initial checks have indicated normal health of the satellite", the space agency said.

Preparations are underway for the firing of 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) during the third orbit of the satellite at 03:58 hrs IST tomorrow as a first step towards taking the satellite to its geostationary orbital home.

An ISRO team, which witnessed the launch, expressed happiness over the successful mission.

"I am extremely happy to announce that ISRO`s Master Control Facility at Hassan near Bangalore has confirmed the reception of signals from GSAT-8 and taken charge of the command and control of GSAT-8 immediately after its injection into the geo-stationary transfer orbit," Radhakrishnan, who is also ISRO Chairman said.

"This (the launch) is another great moment for us," he said.

Radhakrishnan said the user community in India was looking forward for the operationalisation of the 24 high-power Ku band transponders into the Indian National Satellite system.

ISRO officials said the launch was doubly gratifying as the space agency had lost two satellites last year in two unsuccessful GSLV missions launched from the home soil.

The space agency was desperately looking to augment transponder capacity, which is in great demand.

Built by Japan`s Mitsubishi Electric Company, ST-2 would be operated by the ST-2 Satellite Ventures joint company of Singapore Telecommunications Ltd (SingTel) and Taiwan`s Chunghwa Telecom Company Ltd.

GSAT-8 marked the 14th Indian satellite launched by Ariane family of vehicles in the last 30 years.

Since the launch of the Apple experimental satellite on Flight L03 in 1981, Arianespace has put into orbit 13 Indian satellites.