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Updated January 3rd, 2024 at 16:57 IST

ISRO picks SpaceX's Falcon 9 to launch communications satellite in 2024

ISRO's communications satellite GSAT-N2 is targeted for launch aboard the Falcon 9 rocket in the second quarter of 2024.

Harsh Vardhan
SpaceX
SpaceX's Falcon 9 lifting off with O3b mPOWER mission from Florida. | Image:SpaceX
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ISRO's commercial arm New Space India Limited (NSIL) has signed a contract with Elon Musk's SpaceX to avail a launch vehicle for a communications satellite. The satellite GSAT-N2 is targeted for launch aboard the Falcon 9 rocket in the second quarter of 2024.

In an official release, the NSIL said that the 4700 kg satellite renamed from GSAT-20 is designed to "offer cost-effective Ka-Ka band HTS capacity primarily for meeting the Broadband, as well as IFMC and cellular backhaul service needs."

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It further revealed that the High throughput satellite will offer a capacity of 48 gbps with 32 beams having pan India coverage including the Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands. NSIL said that the satellite "has been specifically designed to meet the demanding service needs of remote/unconnected regions." It also said a bulk of the satellite's capacity has already been secured by Indian service providers without revealing their names.

The Falcon 9 rocket launching with O3b mPOWER mission from Florida. Image: SpaceX

Notably, the next launch would be the NSIL's second demand driven satellite mission after the first one in June 2022.

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ISRO's reliance on SpaceX underscores the lack of launch options the agency has when it comes to heavier satellites. The Launch Vehicle Mark III or LVM3 is ISRO's heaviest rocket but it can only carry payloads up to 4000 kg.

For launching heavier satellites, ISRO has been dependent on Arianespace and this relation dates back to 1981 when the French company launched India's first indigenous, experimental communication satellite APPLE or Ariane Passenger Payload Experiment.

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ISRO would have again chosen Arianespace but the company retired its Ariane 5 rocket in July this year after it launched France's Syracuse 4B and Germany's Heinrich Hertz (H2Sat) satellites to geostationary orbit for the final time. The same Ariane 5 rocket was used to launch the James Webb Space Telescope. Arianespace is now developing Ariane 6 which is likely to debut in June 2024 after a few years of delay.

A test model of the Ariane 6 at French Guiana. Image: Arianespace

Earlier in June this year, ISRO chief S Somanath said that his team has prepared a report elaborating on the under construction Next Generation Launch Vehicle (NGLV) which will be partially reusable. Moreover, ISRO is also planning to upgrade the LVM3 to loft 6 tonnes of payload to the Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

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Since India also has plans to build its own space station by 2035, ISRO is developing the NGLV to be capable of transferring up to 10 tonnes to orbit. 
 

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Published January 3rd, 2024 at 16:11 IST

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