Countdown: South Asia Satellite to be launched today

India begins countdown for South Asia satellite GSAT-9 launch

This is the 4th consecutive flight of GSLV-F09 rocket which is powered with the indigenous cryogenic engine in the upper stage.

"Through this we will achieve effective communication, better governance, better banking services & better education in remote areas", Mr. Modi said in an address to the nation post launch. Pakistan has opted out of the project.

The total cost of launching the satellite is estimated to be about ₹2,350,000,000 (₹235 crore).

This will be the first time when New Delhi will be flexing its prowess of space technology by embarking on an unprecedented and un-chartered 'stratospheric diplomacy'.

Six of India's neighbours including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Srilanka and the Maldives participated in the space-based regional communication project.

Analysts say India is using the launch to exercise a form of soft power and counter-balance to China's growing influence over its neighbours. In 2013, Isro received worldwide applause for sending a low-priced orbiter named Mangalyaan to Mars. He said, the launch has started a journey to build the most advanced frontier of partnership in South Asia.

Each South Asian country will get access to one transponder through which they will be able to beam their own programming, besides common "South Asian programming", the news reports said.

Costing around Rs 235 crore, the satellite was initially known as the Saarc satellite but with Pakistan deciding to keep out, it is now called the South Asia Satellite.

The South Asia Satellite is a geosynchronous communications and meteorology satellite.

This "gift" from India has no parallels in the space-faring world.

Previously, the Geostationary Communication Satellite was aimed at helping all the SAARC nations gain increased communication in the region.

Hailing as historic India's successful launch of the South Asia satellite, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday termed it a symbol of South Asian co-operation for its economic progress. The satellite is a high-priority factor for India alongside the economic and developmental priorities.

He said the next satellite with electric power will be the GSAT-20 slated for launch in 2018.

"This is a specially beneficial for small countries like Bhutan who does not have the technology or resources to launch such satellite", said Tshering Tobgay, the PM of Bhutan, while thanking Modi.

The satellite will be launched on board the space agency's rocket GSLV-F09. He said that this is the priceless gift from India to its neighboring counties.

On disaster management front, the satellite can also provide secure hotlines among the participating nations, which will be useful for management of disasters like earthquakes, cyclones, floods and tsunamis. However, these concerns were dismissed by India.

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