Integration of GSAT-6A in progress at ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore

India's latest communication satellite GSAT-6A, successfully placed in orbit on Thursday, was once embroiled in controversy like its predecessor GSAT-6, launched in 2015.

The two satellites, weighing two tonnes, became a subject of controversy, as 90 percent of their transponders were to be leased to Devas Multimedia Ltd by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) commercial arm Antrix Corporation under a deal, which was annulled in February 2011 on the ground that the country's defence needs had to be met first.

Under the controversial deal, the Bengaluru-based Devas was to use the transponders of GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A in the crucial S-Band wavelength  "primarily kept for the country's strategic interests" for its digital multimedia service for 12 years.

Antrix had signed the $300 million contract with Devas in January 2005 and obtained sanction of the Space Commission and the Union Cabinet for the two satellites (GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A) without informing the government that the bulk capacity (90 percent) would be leased to the multimedia service provider.

When the controversy broke in December 2009, the state-run ISRO ordered a review of the deal and subsequently the Space Commission had recommended its annulment on July 2, 2010. Antrix terminated the deal on 25 February 2011.

Subsequently, GSAT-6 was launched in 2015. However, the controversy and the legal fight is continuing on the ground between the parties.