CHENNAI: When GSLV Mk-II successfully placed GSAT-6A communication satellite in to orbit on today, it gave Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Indian Armed Forces a shot in the arm. ISRO will be testing certain critical systems that may eventually go into the country’s second lunar mission, and the satellite will enhance communication services for the Indian military.

The mission also validated new systems including a high thrust Vikas engine, which may eventually be used during the launch of Chandrayaan-2. The improved engine, which powers the second stage of the launch vehicle, will be able to carry an additional weight of another 70 kg to its payload capability. Any improvement in the vehicle will be usually incorporated in the subsequent launches.

Scientists will also be testing electro-mechanical actuation system in the place of a electro-hydraulic actuation in an effort to enhance the reliability of the launch vehicle. An actuator is a component that controls the vehicle in every stage.

GSAT-6A, which the rocket carried, will be different from the usual communication satellites. While it will complement its predecessor GSAT-6, ISRO sources said, the satellite will provide services for defence purposes and will not add any transponder capacity for general uses. GSAT-6 has been in orbit providing communication services since its launch on August 27, 2015

The satellite will be have a 6m wide unfurlable antenna, thrice the size of the antenna generally used by ISRO satellites, GSAT-6A is the third satellite launched by ISRO for strategic requirements. In 2013, it has launched GSAT-7, a dedicated communications satellite for the Navy. GSAT-6 is a 2117 kg satellite and would be mainly used by the armed forces. Indian soldiers operate in diverse terrain and topographic conditions, from peninsular region to desert to snow-clad mountains. Owing to topographical challenges, soldiers on many occasions encounter breaks in commutations. GSAT-6A is expected to provide quality and secure communication. This new system also frees the soldier from carrying bulky communication equipment since very small handheld devices would be put in use.

The launch of the military satellite GSAT-6A needs to be analysed in the backdrop of India’s overall military space capabilities. India has announced that the GSAT-7 and GSAT-6 satellites have been developed for strategic purposes. Earlier, some remote-sensing (sub-metre resolution, matching with the best in the world) satellites were also launched by ISRO as dual-purpose satellites like the technology experimental satellite (TES, 2000) and the four cartographic satellites (CARTOSAT-1, 2, 2A and 2B in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010). India has also launched (with Israeli assistance) two Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites called RISAT II (2009) and RISAT I (2011) essentially to address terrorism related threats. Satellite based navigation is another important arena which has significant military utility.

India’s increasing investments in space for strategic purposes clearly indicates the rising relevance of space assets for the armed forces. Space technologies have been considered a force multiplier for militaries for some time. Now, space technologies are fast becoming important constituents of war fighting itself as various modern day weapon systems and military platforms have significant dependence on satellites systems for their operations.

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