Modi asks Indian scientists to develop a SAARC satellite

BY S VENKAT NARAYAN Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, June 30: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today asked Indian scientists to develop a SAARC satellite which can be dedicated as a "gift" to the country’s neighbours.

Modi witnessed the launch five foreign satellites on board an indigenous rocket from the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Mission Control Room at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. With this, India reached another milestone in space technology.

Speaking shortly after the launch, Modi made a pitch for satellite diplomacy by asking scientists to develop a SAARC satellite that could be of use to India’s neighbours. The SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) comprises eight countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

He said the successful launch of the foreign satellites on board an Indian rocket is a "global endorsement" of India’s space capabilities developed by "our brilliant scientists".

After a perfect lift- off from the First Launch Pad in the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota at 9:52am, ISRO’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C23 placed all the five satellites into their intended orbits, one after the other between 17 and 19 minutes after the launch, in textbook-precision style.

Besides its primary payload of 714-kg French Earth Observation Satellite SPOT-7, the rocket carried and placed in orbit 14-kg AISAT of Germany, NLS7.1 (CAN-X4) and NLS7.2 (CAN-X5) of Canada, each weighing 15-kg, and the 7-kg VELOX-1 of Singapore.

In his first official visit to the spaceport, the Prime Minister said: "Today I ask you, the space community, to take up the challenge of developing a SAARC satellite that we can dedicate to our neighbourhood as a gift from India."

"Such a satellite will be helpful in SAARC nations’ fight against poverty and illiteracy, the challenge to progress in scientific field, and will open up avenues to provide opportunities to the youth of SAARC countries," he said.

The five satellites were launched under commercial arrangements that ISRO’s commercial arm ANTRIX entered into with the respective foreign agencies.

Modi said India’s age-old ethos of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the world is one family) spurred the need for a SAARC satellite. The fruits of technological advancement made by India must be shared with those who do not enjoy them, he declared.

"We provide benefits of telemedicine to Afghanistan and African countries. But we must do more. ‘Yeh dil maange more’ (the heart desires for more)," Modi said repeating a famous line.

Besides Modi, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu, Andhra Pradesh Governor ESL Narasimhan and Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu also witnessed the launch from the Sriharikota spaceport, about 100 kilometres from Chennai.

The Prime Minister arrived in Chennai on Sunday evening enroute to Sriharikota to witness the event. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa received him at the airport.

French satellite SPOT 7, identical to SPOT-6, which ISRO had launched in 2012, will be placed diametrically opposite SPOT-6, forming part of the existing Earth observation satellite. European space technology company Airbus Defence and Space has built SPOT-7.

Germany’s AISAT satellite will focus on the global sea-traffic monitoring system with special emphasis on high traffic zones using AIS signals. It is also Germany’s first DLR satellite in the nano-satellite class.

NLS 7.1 and NLS 7.2 are from the Institute of Aerospace Studies/ Space Flight Laboratory, University of Toronto in Canada. Both payloads will perform two-spacecraft precision formation flying using differential GPS with centimetre-level relative position and sub-metre level accurate position control system.

Satellite VELOX-1 from Nanyang Technological University of Singapore is a technology demonstrator for in-house design of image sensor, MEMS-based attitude determination and control system and inter-satellite RF link.

ISRO has so far launched 35 satellites from 19 countries around the globe: Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Singapore, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The organisation earned a substantial sum in foreign exchange.

The space programme and its scientists came in for generous praise from the Prime Minister who said that today’s success "fills every Indian’s heart with pride".

"India’s advanced space programme puts her in an elite global group of five-six countries today. This is one domain in which we are at international cutting edge, pushing beyound mediocrity to achieve excellence," Modi said and noted that the space programme had made rapid strides despite resource constrains and "international hurdles".

India has the potential to be a "large service provider" in this area, Modi said. Efforts must be put in place to achieve this, like constructing new infrastructure to launch heavier satellites.

From the days of some rocket components transported in bicycles and India’s first satellite Aryabhata, the space programme has come a long way, in the process becoming a cost-effective one, he said.

In a lighter vein, he said he came to know that ISRO’s Mars mission costs less than the sum spent on making Hollywood sci-fi ‘Gravity’— an Oscar-winning movie about space.

"The success has a deep historical root. Human journey started from Upanishads (vedic texts) to upagrah (satellites)....Our ancestors conceived ideas like shunya (zero) and flying objects," he said. But for the idea of zero, there could be no scientific progress.

Modi lauded the space community, saluting among others its founding fathers Vikram Sarabhai and Satish Dhawan, besides ISRO for the "perfect" placement of the satellites in their intended orbits today.

"Our space scientists have made us global leaders in one of the most complex areas of modern technology. This shows that we can be the best and we must feel proud of it. If we apply ourselves, we can meet the aspirations of our people," the Prime Minister said.

Modi, who stayed overnight at ISRO, said he is happy to come across four generations of scientists, including those from the days of the Aryabhata satellite and said it gave a "family-like" environment at the spaceport.

The Prime Minister made a strong pitch for the use of space technology in daily life, making it clear that it is not to be confined to the elite. Laboratory achievements can be replicated for daily life applications, he pointed out.

This will transform the lives of millions of people and assure scientists that their work will benefit the common man, he said.

In particular, he cited the GIS-enabled watershed programme and asked scientists to come up with space applications for land-records and other governance issues.

"Satellite technology has made distance irrelevant. It effectively enables us to reach the unreached, helps us connect virtually where physical connection is difficult," he said.

Modi also stressed on the need for strengthening international partnerships in space technology. He also proposed linking more Indian universities and colleges through satellite technology. Pic saved as V2P1:


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