NEW DELHI: With the launch of

communication satellite Gsat-7A
from Sriharikota at 4.10pm on Wednesday, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has not only provided the Indian Air Force with its own ‘eye’ in the sky but has achieved a milestone by launching three satellites in just 35 days.

The two other satellites launched in over a month were communication satellite Gsat-29 (November 14) and hyperspectral imaging satellite HysiS (November 29). If the desi heaviest communication satellite Gsat-11 launched from the European spaceport is also counted, then the number of satellites launched in just 35 days comes to four, a big achievement for the Indian space agency.

After the launch of Gsat-7A, Isro chairman K Sivan said, “With today’s launch, we have achieved several milestones. We are successful in launching three missions in just 35 days. Gsat-7A is the third communication satellite to be launched in the same period. Gsat-7A is also the heaviest satellite lifted by indigenously made cryogenic engine from Sriharikota. An advanced Gregorian antenna has been used in this satellite that will improve its performance. This launch was the last Isro mission of 2018.”

The 2,250-kg military communication satellite Gsat-7A will work as a force multiplier for the IAF as it will interlink all its assets like fighter and transport aircraft, airborne early warning control platforms, drones and ground radar staions and airbases, building a centralised network.

It will boost the air force’s network-centric warfare capabilities and enhance its global operations. So far, the IAF has been relying on hiring transponders.

Gsat-7A will also boost drone operations as it will help the force upgrade from existing ground control stations to satellite-control of military UAVs. The launch has come at an opportune time as India is in the process of acquiring US armed Predator-B or Sea Guardian drones, which are high-altitude and long endurance satellite-controlled UAVs that can fire at enemy targets from long distances.

The launch of the dedicated IAF satellite comes at a time when the defence ministry has cleared a plan to set up a special “Defence Space Agency” – an integrated tri-services unit that will use all space assets for the benefit of the armed forces.

Gsat-7A will be the second communication satellite dedicated to the military. Earlier, Isro had launched Gsat-7 or Rukmini in September 2013 for the Navy. Rukmini has not only helped the naval force monitor the Indian Ocean Region but also provided real-time inputs to warships, submarines and maritime planes.

Isro will usher in next year with lots of space activities as a series of satellites are lined up for launches in the first half of the year. In January itself, three launches are scheduled. Isro will launch a PSLV mission carrying EMISAT and then its communication satellite Gsat-31 will be launched from French Guiana that will replace INSAT 4CR, whose end of life is expected soon. India’s most highly ambitious moon mission ‘Chandrayaan-2’ is also scheduled to be launched in January, though its launch window is from January 3 to February 13. Isro also plans to launch remote sensing satellite Risat-2B around the same time.

In February, PSLV C46 will launch two satellites — Cartosat-3, a remote sensing satellite, and NEMO AM, the next-generation earth monitoring and observation-aerosol monitoring satellite. In March, Isro plans to launch another reconnaissance satellite Risat-2BR1. Risat-2B, Cartosat-3 and Risat-2BR1 will further boost the surveillance capabilities of the country.

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