After its launch was deferred twice due to bad weather, India’s latest communication satellite GSAT-16 was placed in orbit by Ariane 5 rocket in the early hours on Sunday from the space port of Kourou in French Guiana.
The European launcher blasted off at 2.10 AM (IST) and hurled the GSAT-16, designed to augment the national space capacity to boost communication services, into space in a flawless flight. GSAT-16 was launched into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).
Indian satellite’s co-passenger DIRECTV-14, built by SSL (Space Systems/Loral) for operator DIRECTV to provide direct-to-home television broadcasts across the US, was also launched by Ariane 5 VA221, marking 63rd successful mission in a row for the rocket.
“Ariane 5 delivers DIRECTV-14 and GSAT-16 to orbit on Arianespace’s latest mission success”, Arianespace said on its website.
With a lift-off mass of 3,181 kg, GSAT-16 carries a total of 48 communication transponders, the largest by a communication satellite developed by the ISRO so far.
Soon after the launch, Bengaluru-headquartered Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said the satellite is in good health.
ISRO’s Master Control Facility at Hassan in Karnataka has taken over the command and control of GSAT-16. First orbit raising operation is scheduled on Monday at around 03:50 am, the space agency said.
The satellite launch was originally scheduled for Friday but was put off due to bad weather. It was rescheduled for 02.09 AM (IST) on Saturday but within hours postponed again, citing the inclement weather at the launch base in Kourou.
GSAT-16, with a designated on orbit operational life of 12 years, will boost public and private tv and radio services, large-scale Internet and telephone operations.
It will replace INSAT-3E, decommissioned prematurely in April. It is the 18th satellite launched by Arianespace for ISRO.
The DIRECTV-14 spacecraft was deployed first in the flight sequence, separating from Ariane 5 nearly 28 minutes after liftoff, followed four minutes later by its GSAT-16
Co-passenger, Arianespace said.
Delivering a total payload lift performance of approximately 10,200 kg, the mission – designated Flight VA221 in Arianespace’s numbering system – lofted DIRECTV-14 for operator DIRECTV, along with GSAT-16.
The capacity crunch has forced ISRO to lease 95 transponders on foreign satellites mainly for private TV broadcasters’ use.
The satellite will boost public and private TV and radio services, large-scale Internet and telephone operations.
GSAT-16 will be finally positioned at 55 deg East longitudes in the geostationary orbit and co-located with GSAT-8, IRNSS-1A and IRNSS-1B satellites.
India’s rockets PSLV and the present GSLV do not have the capability to launch satellites of more than two tonne class, prompting ISRO to opt for an outside launch.
ISRO is developing the next big launcher, GSLV-MkIII, which can put satellites of up to 4 tonnes in orbit.