Monday, December 22, 2008

First Indian satellite built for foreign customer launched atop Arianne V from Kourou

Meanwhile, a mission-threatening overheating problem on-board Chandrayaan in Lunar orbit, ISRO reports, has been repaired (BBC Science story HERE.)

Press Trust of India Bangalore - India’s space commerce got a big boost today when the first satellite built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for a foreign customer was succesfully put into orbit after being launched by the European Ariane-5 rocket (AFP photograph right), fetching a profit of $40 million.

The state-of-the-art communications satellite, W2M ~ built by ISRO on a commercial basis in partnership with EADS Astrium ~ was launched from at Kourou, ISRO said here today.

Thirty-two minutes after its lift-off, W2M separated from Ariane-5, after reaching its intended geosynchronous transfer orbit. Building W2M signalled ISRO’s foray into the satellite-manufacturing market.

Weighing 3,463 kg at lift-off, it is the heaviest satellite built by ISRO and is capable of operating for over 15 years. It was built for Eutelsat Communications, which is a global satellite communications provider based in Paris.

Radio signals transmitted by W2M were successfully received by ISRO’s Master Control Facility at Hassan in Karnataka and the satellite’s health is normal.

While W2M was built under an $80 million contract by ISRO, officials said it was a good deal for the space agency which made a profit of $40 million in this venture. “ISRO builds such spacecraft without payloads for less than Rs 200 crore. That way we made a good profit,” an ISRO official said.

ISRO chairman Dr G Madhavan Nair was present at the French spaceport of Kourou when the W2M satellite was launched along with the Hot Bird satellite built by EADS Astrium, Europe’s leading satellite system specialist.

“It (W2M) is comparable to INSAT-4 series. For the first time, we have built a satellite for a foreign customer. That’s why the launch is important,” Dr Nair said.

The W2M project was undertaken in the context of an accord signed during the visit of the President of France on 20 February 2006 at New Delhi between Antrix Corporation Ltd., ISRO’s commercial arm, and EADS Astrium to jointly build the satellite.

ISRO spokesperson Mr S Satish said “weighing 3,462 kg at lift-off, W2M is the heaviest spacecraft built by the Indian space agency till date”. Dr Nair said ISRO is building another satellite, Hylas, under the ISRO-EADS Astrium alliance.

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