Shortly before 5 pm on Friday, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (Isro’s) heaviest rocket, the Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), will blast off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota for the eleventh time. This time, the GSLV’s mission will be to place into orbit the so-called “South Asia Satellite”, a pure communications satellite called GSAT-9, which will provide linked communications to seven regional countries the entire membership of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), less Pakistan. India is bearing the Rs 450 crore cost of the launch.
This project in high-technology regional diplomacy is backed by Isro’s stellar record in low-cost, high-success-rate space launches. In 2013, the agency won global plaudits for sending a low-cost orbiter named Mangalyaan to Mars, becoming the first country to succeed in doing so on its first attempt. In February, Isro’s workhorse, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, which has launched 180 satellites so far without failure in 38th consecutive successful launches, established a world record by placing 104 satellites into orbit in a single launch.
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