A rocket carrying the GSAT7 blasts off from the launchpad in Kourou, French Guinea, on Friday. (AFP)
New Delhi, Aug. 30: The launching of the GSAT7 satellite this morning effectively opens India’s first dedicated military programme in space. The navy is its first beneficiary.
Expected to be fully operational in three weeks, the GSAT7 could be at the centre of the navy’s fleet communications system.
It is designed to enable the transmission of messages from, say, an Indian Navy warship off the coast of Karachi, on the country’s western seaboard, to a submarine near Port Blair, on the eastern, instantaneously.
Similarly, pictures, voice, data, text and images could also be transmitted in “real time” from, say, a helicopter or a pilotless aircraft taking-off from the coast of Bengal to a carrier battlegroup off the coast of Goa and the navy war-room in New Delhi simultaneously.
Officially, the navy denies that the GSAT7 is its satellite. But the force has paid for its building by Isro’s special projects division and will have command and control of the satellite after it is fully deployed and positioned to its designated orbit and geostationary location in about a week.
The GSAT7 is also the only satellite — there are nine other satellites that are partly used by security agencies — that has a “footprint” across the Indian Ocean Region that the Indian Navy sees as its area of responsibility, from the Straits of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf to the Straits of Malacca. The other satellites are mostly focused on the Indian landmass.
The satellite was originally scheduled to be launched in 2010. But Isro has not yet been able to develop the vehicle that could rocket it to space. (Which is why France’s Arianespace was hired for the launch from Kourou, French Guinea, this morning).
The GSAT7 is slated to be followed by the launch of the GSAT7A, planned for early 2014, that may be the network-centric command enabler for the Indian Air Force.
The defence establishment and Isro are also working on a Tri-Services Defence Communication Network. It envisages a system linked by optical fibre networks, satellite earth stations, mobile and fixed satellite terminals to be shared by the army, navy, air force and the coast guard.
Part of the programme involves developing systems to detect missiles targeted at satellites, a reminder to the “Star Wars” — a coinage used to describe the competition between the US and Soviet Union to militarise space during the Cold War.
An aerospace command, for which the Indian Air Force is the leading piloting agency, has also been proposed and is being considered by the government.
China shot down an old weather satellite in 2008 to prove that it has developed an ASAT (anti-satellite missile).