South Asian satellite set to launch

Amidst tight security, the final 28-hour countdown for the launch of 2,230 kg South Asian Satellite kicked off at 12.57 pm on Thursday. The lift off will be at 5 pm on Friday at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. The satellite, which will cater to various communication needs of the six Saarc countries--India, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Afghanistan--is expected to become fully operational in about a fortnight when it enters the geostationary orbit at 36,000 km above the equator.

An Isro official said that all systems were a `go' for the flight and the weather was fine. Pakistan pulled out of the satellite deal, citing security reasons. If the Rs.235 crore mission succeeds--a pet project of PM Narendra Modi--it will be India's maiden foray into the field of space diplomacy. Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar has been quoted as saying that one or two transponders will be given to each of the six nations, which can be used based on their needs.

The satellite will give a communication link to the six Saarc countries which can provide hotline channels to the heads of the states. The primary role of the mission will be in the areas of disaster management, remote sensing, tele education, tele medicine and exchange of knowledge.

The mission is a combination of politics and technology--a first for an Isro flight.

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