The South Asia Satellite, also known as GSAT-9, is a geostationary communications and meteorology satellite operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region. The satellite was launched on the 5th May, 2017. During the 18th SAARC summit held in Nepal in 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi mooted the idea of a satellite serving the needs of SAARC member nations as a part of his Neighbourhood first policy. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka are the users of the multi-dimensional facilities provided by the satellite.
Pakistan did not join the project, stating that it was working on its own satellite, but did offer "monetary and technical support". India rejected Pakistani offers, saying that it wanted the project to be a "gift" and multi-national collaboration would be time consuming. As a result, Pakistan declined to participate in the project. Afghanistan was initially non-committal to the satellite.
The South Asia Satellite provides crucial information on tele-medicine, tele-education, banking and television broadcasting opportunities. It is also equipped with remote sensing state of the art technology which enables collection of real-time weather data and helps in observations of the geology of the South Asian nations.
During the Indian general elections campaign in 2014, Prime Minister Modi hinted that his foreign policy will actively focus on improving ties with India's immediate neighbours which is being termed as Neighbourhood first policy in the Indian media. Modi invited all heads of state/heads of government of SAARC countries during his swearing-in ceremony as Prime Minister of India and held bilateral talks with all of them individually, which was dubbed a "mini SAARC summit" by the media. India has an active space programme dating back to 1965, and in 1975, became the first South Asian nation to launch a satellite.
One month after sworn in as Prime Minister of India, in June 2014 Modi asked ISRO to develop a SAARC satellite, which can be dedicated as a ‘gift’ to the neighbours. He asked the scientists to work on a satellite that would provide a full range of applications and services to all of India’s neighbours. Modi said, "There is a lot of poverty in the SAARC nations and we need scientific solutions for this".
In his address to the Sri Lankan Parliament in March 2015, Narendra Modi said "Sri Lanka will take full benefit of India's satellite for the SAARC Region. This should be in Space by December 2016".
Pakistan maintains its own active space program under its Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), which has launched satellites on Chinese satellite launch vehicles in the past.
Pakistan initially declared that it was "keen" to participate on the project, offering monetary and technical support. However, Pakistan said it did not because "India was not willing to develop the project on a collaborative basis." Pakistan also stated it was working on its own satellite under its existing space commitments, thus declined to join the project. The Indian government declined Pakistani offers of technical and monetary help because it wanted the project to be an Indian "gift" and did not want to make it into a "SAARC project", and that collaborations with Pakistan would have taken some time. Earlier on 27 June 2015, ISRO chairman A. S. Kiran Kumar had announced that India and Pakistan would collaborate on developing the SAARC satellite with SUPARCO performing technical engineering under ISRO's guidance.
During the 70th UN meeting in New York City held on 20 September 2015, officials from India and Pakistan debated over the ownership and control of the satellite. On 2 October 2015, India announced that it had decided to go ahead with building the satellite, without Pakistan's consent. On 23 March 2016, Vikas Swarup, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs of India said "Pakistan has decided to opt-out of the satellite project. So it cannot be called a SAARC satellite. It will be a South Asia satellite."
On 23 March 2017, Bangladesh signed the South Asia Satellite agreement with India. The agreement formally known as "Agreement between the Government of Republic of India and the Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh concerning to orbit frequency co-ordination of 'South Asia Satellite' proposed at 48.E" would cover 12 transponders of the satellite from which, 1 will be gifted to Bangladesh.
In November 2015, ISRO chairman A. S. Kiran Kumar stated that the satellite could be launched within 18 months of receiving approval from the SAARC member nations. It was proposed to build a satellite for the SAARC region with 12 Ku-band transponders (36 MHz each) and launch it with the Indian Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV Mk-II. The cost of the satellite was estimated to be about ₹235 crore (US$36 million), and the total cost including operational costs and insurance comes to ₹450 crore (US$69 million). The cost associated with the launch was met by the Government of India.
The satellite will enable a full range of applications and services in the areas of telecommunication and broadcasting applications viz television (TV), direct-to-home (DTH), very small aperture terminals (VSATs), tele-education, tele-medicine and disaster management support. It will provide communication channels for better coordination during disaster management, and will help countries in mapping terrain and natural resources.
The standalone satellite has a liftoff mass of about 2,230 kg. GSAT-9 is the first Indian satellite to use electric propulsion albeit partially. It carries only 25% of the normal chemical fuel package compared to other Indian satellites, a xenon based electric propulsion system is used for orbital functions of the spacecraft. GSAT-20 is expected to be the first fully electric propulsion system enabled satellite.
The satellite was launched on 5 May 2017 at 11:27 UTC aboard the GSLV-F09 rocket from the Second Launch Pad (SLP) of the Satish Dhawan spaceport in Sriharikota, in the southern part of Andhra Pradesh.
The launch was followed by a series of orbit-raising operations (using an on-board LAM and chemical thrusters) to place the satellite in the intended geostationary orbital slot.
|LAM burn time||Height achieved||Inclination
|1||5 May 2017
|2643 sec||35,873 km (22,290 mi)||5,687 km (3,534 mi)||10.38°||12 hr, 22 min|||
|2||7 May 2017
|3529.7 sec||35,858 km (22,281 mi)||28,608 km (17,776 mi)||0.755°||20 hr, 58 min|||
|3||8 May 2017
|445.8 sec||35,809 km (22,251 mi)||35,776.8 km (22,230.7 mi)||0.0°||23 hr, 56 min, 6 sec|||