Pakistan will launch its first indigenously developed communications satellite on August 14, 2011, from a facility in China.
Dr Mohammad Riaz Suddle, the director of the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission’s (Suparco) satellite research and development center in Lahore, said the satellite’s life span will be 15 years.
Responding to a question, Dr Suddle said, the satellite would be launched at a longitude of 38 degrees in geostationary orbit on the equatorial plane at an altitude of 36,000km above the Earth’s surface.
Paksat-1R will carry a communications payload to facilitate the introduction of a range of new services, including broadband internet, digital TV distribution/broadcasting, remote/rural telephony, emergency communications, tele-education and tele-medicine.
The contract for Pakis- tan Communication Satellite (Paksat-1R) was signed between Suparco and China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC), a Chinese firm, on October 15, 2008, in Beijing, during President Asif Zardari’s visit to China.
Work on the execution of the contract began soon after and is progressing as scheduled, according to Dr Suddle. He did not reveal the cost of the project but said the contract involves various other projects, including infrastructure and therefore it is difficult to invest an exact cost on the satellite itself.
Responding to a question, he said that at least two new satellites – Paksat-1R and Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite (PRSS) – would be launched in the near future.
The satellites have been developed with technical and financial assistance from China.
The project has been approved by the federal government as part of the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), he said.
When quizzed from where the finances for the project were coming , Dr Suddle said that efforts are under way to secure a long-term concessional loan from the Chinese government to finance a major part of the project.
Speaking about the status of Pakistan’s space programme in comparison to that of other countries in the region, Dr Suddle asserted that Pakistan’s space/satellite development programme “needs to make rapid and sustained progress to meet national needs. India has a very advanced space programme”.
At present, Pakistan has a communications satellite, Paksat-1, in orbit, providing coverage across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and the South Asian subcontinent. It is being used by TV broadcasters, telecom companies, data and broadband internet service providers and government organizations.
Paksat-1R will replace Paksat-1, a leased satellite, to ensure continuity of service.
In the 1990s, Pakistan also operated a small satellite, Badr-A, in low earth orbit. however, the country’s modest space program has been oriented towards remote sensing applications.
Badr-A was Pakistan’s first indigenously developed satellite and was launched from the Xichang Launch Centre in China on July 16, 1990 aboard a Chinese Long March 2E rocket. Badr-A weighed 150 pounds and was inserted into an elliptical orbit of 127-615 miles by the rocket. The satellite successfully completed its design life.
Pakistan’s second satellite, Badr-B, was an earth observation satellite and was launched on Dec 10, 2001, on a Zenit-2 rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It was designed by Space Innovations Limited, a UK-based company.
Paksat-1 was Pakistan’s first geostationary satellite. It was originally known as Palapa C1, launched in 1996 which had been designed to serve Indonesia. After an electronics failure, it was renamed Anatolia-1 and then renamed again to become Paksat-1 in 2002. It was originally manufactured by Boeing by following the HS601 spacecraft design.
Suparco set about trying to replace Paksat-1 by signing a consultancy deal with Telesat in March 2007, according to the deal, the company will provide consultancy services to Pakistan on the purchase, manufacture and launch of Paksat-1R. Under the agreement, Telesat will help Suparco find a manufacturer and provide technical and commercial advice during the negotiations process. Telesat will also help to oversee the construction of the new satellite and monitor the launch and provide in-orbit testing services.
Reports quoting credible sources said that Pakistan is also working on development of Satellite Launch Vehicles (SLVs), basing their assumption on Pakistan’s success in developing intermediate range ballistic missiles.
Experts believe the missile technology will be used in any SLV. The Indian SLV-3/ASLV uses Agni ballistic missiles as first stage propulsion units and as boosters.
Suparco has already tested two high-altitude sounding rockets: Shahpar and Rakhnum. Shahpar is a seven metre solid fuel two-stage rocket that can carry a payload of 55 kilograms to an altitude of 450 kilometres. Rakhnum can lift a payload of 38kg to an altitude of 100km.
Although Dr Suddle says that Pakistan’s new communication satellite would be launched on August 14, 2011, judging from Pakistan’s progress in ballistic missile technology, analysts do not rule out the possibility that Suparco may just be waiting for the right moment to test Pakistan’s first satellite launch vehicle.
In this context, they cite Dr A.Q. Khan’s reported statement in March 2001, in which he had claimed that Pakistani scientists were busy in the process of building the country’s first SLV and that the project had been assigned to Suparco.
According to reports published in March 2005, former president and retired general Pervez Musharraf had authorised renewed research and development on an indigenous launch capability that would be able to put into orbit a domestically built satellite, Paksat-1R.