GSAT-16, the next national communications satellite, reached French Guiana this week and is on its way to the space port near Kourou ahead of an early December flight, European launch service company Arianespace has said.
The 3,150-kg satellite is scheduled to be flown on an Ariane-5 launcher numbered Flight VA221. Built at the ISRO Satellite Centre in Bangalore, GSAT-16 was sent on a chartered cargo plane to the French Guiana capital of Cayenne.
Over the coming weeks, a team of ISRO engineers will routinely check, test and fully ready it for launch.
The satellite carries C-band and Ku-band transponders which will support VSAT (very small aperture terminal) services, television services and emergency communications across the country.
ISRO advanced the launch date of GSAT-16 by about six months to meet increasing demand for INSAT/GSAT transponder capacity from various industry and government users, ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan recently told The Hindu. It will replace INSAT-3E, which expired a little prematurely in April, at the same 55 degrees east orbital slot over India.
The assembly of the satellite, its foreign launch and insurance cost Rs.860 crore, more than half of it going towards the launch cost. ISROcontracted Arianespace to launch both GSAT-16 and later the GSAT-15 communication satellite. The national space agency is still perfecting its two-tonne-class launcher, the GSLV, and cannot launch these three-tonne-class spacecraft.
It is also working on the GSLV Mark-III that can lift four-tonne payloads. The first experimental flight of MkIII is slated for November or December.
The GSAT-16 will be put in orbit along with DIRECTV-14, a satellite that will provide direct-to-home television broadcasts across the U.S.