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ISRO to launch 10 satellites to replace its ageing fleet

India plans to replace more than 10 communication satellites over the next few years as they near the end of their life in orbit, the country’s space agency chairman told ET. The plan includes launching high throughput satellites that can beam high-speed internet at more than 300 gigabytes per second into remote corners, said K Sivan of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro).

The first such satellite, GSAT-30, which will replace the 15-year-old INSAT 4-A satellite, was launched on January 17. The satellite carried 12 C band transponders for communication and 12 Ku band transponders designed for direct-to-home transmission. “One of the (important) plans is that wherever we have our ageing satellites, we will have to replace them,” Sivan said. “We need to have advanced technology (enabled) satellites in the areas of communication, navigation and earth observation.”

Isro’s communication satellites that hover in geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) 36,000 kilometres above the earth, are designed for a lifespan of 12-15 years.

As the existing fleet of satellites age, Isro has begun to replace them with more powerful ones to aid in communication, internet and television broadcast. There are 17 operational satellites including GSAT-30.

Analysts suggest satellites that have completed nearly 15 years need replacement as technology changes. “Technologies progress a lot in 15 years and there are satellites which are 15 years old and they need replacement. The second aspect is, both strategic and commercial needs are increasing equally,” said Ajey Lele, senior fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

Even as demand for transponders peak, Isro is struggling to meet its target of 500 transponders. “Communication requirements are increasing day-by-day. There are agencies that are hiring transponders of foreign satellites. If you look at the number of transponders Isro has (it is huge). At one point in time, Isro had an ambitious plan (of having 500 transponders), but they are still trying to achieve that,” Lele said.

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