The South Asia Satellite or GSAT-9 was launched yesterday from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Following the launch, a video conference was held among the Prime Ministers of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay in his remarks said that the launch of the South Asia Satellite is a historic moment for our region.

He thanked India for building and launching the satellite for the common progress of the South Asia region.

He also said that it is an important milestone ushering in a new era of regional cooperation that seeks to harness space technology and its applications for the greater benefit of member countries.

The launch of the satellite lays the foundation to forge stronger partnerships and regional cooperative mechanism for space activities and technology applications.

Speaking on the benefits of the satellite, Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said it would boost regional co-operation and encourage joint collaboration to support sustainable development goals and address many of the regional challenges that we face particularly in eliminating poverty, managing the environment and natural resources, understanding the effects of climate change and building resilience to natural disasters.

He also said that it is an invaluable asset in disaster management especially for a country like Bhutan, which is geographically located in the Himalayan range that is seismically active and highly vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes.

The South Asia Satellite is a geosynchronous communications and meteorology satellite. The satellite has 12 Ku-band transponders (36 Mhz each) and has been launched using the Indian Geosynchro-nous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV Mk-II.

A press release from foreign affairs ministry stated that satellite will enable full range of applications and services in the areas of tele-communication and broadcasting applications viz television (TV), direct-to-home (DTH), very small aperture terminals (VSATs), tele-education, tele-medicine and disaster management support. “The satellite is also expected to help support the water conservation initiatives, by providing data, forecasting weather and sending alerts on natural disasters.”

The total cost for the satellite amounting to INR 235 crores has been fully financed by the Government of India.

The press release stated that the proposal for a regional satellite, which was first discussed by the SAARC Information Ministers in April 1998, has now been realized with the launch of the South Asia Satellite.

“As a world leader in space and satellite technology, India has played an important and leading role in taking the initiative to fruition for the benefit of the region,” it stated.

It also states that the satellite launch augurs well for the region, especially for a small country like Bhutan that has limited technical capacity and resources or capacity to launch its own satellites and spend considerable amounts for various satellite services.

“The satellite technology will enable Bhutan to venture into new areas such as Navigation & GIS systems, earth observation and help overcome the challenges to progress in the scientific field,” it stated. “It will also serve as a critical communication links during times of natural disasters.”

Meanwhile, the mission life of the South Asia Satellite is estimated to be around 12 years.

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay, in a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office stated that in Bhutan, the services rendered by this satellite will expand broadcasting and communications; advance education and telemedicine; improve land management and urban planning; enhance environmental management and weather forecasting; and better-equip us to fight natural disasters.

“This satellite will help improve the happiness and wellbeing of our people,” Prime Minister stated.

He also said the satellite will also yield regional benefits. “Better management of our forests and watersheds mean that the entire region will benefit from a healthier environment.”

The press release stated that the satellite will boost regional cooperation, encourage collaboration and provide a platform to address common challenges together. “This generous gift from India is an example of true friendship and cooperation. And it is bound to bring about the common progress and development of our region.”

Staff Reporter