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SUPARCO to launch Paksat 1R satellite next year

Paksat master Pakistan NewsKARACHI: Pakistan will launch its telecommunication satellite “PakSat 1R” on August 14, 2011. The satellite will replace the current telecommunication satellite developed by Hughes System.

This was stated by Secretary SUPARCO, Arshad H Siraj on Monday. Talking to Dawn.com, Siraj said that the satellite will replace the existing PakSat 1 which will be inactive and outdated next year. The satellite already has shown signal eclipse of 88 days in a year. In PakSat 1R, the “R” means replacement.

Paksat 1 and R:  the History

Telecommunication satellites are put in orbit 35,700 km above the equator, and on that particular altitude they move in-sync with Earth, thus completing the rotation in 24 hours and remaining stationary with respect to a particular position on the ground, which is why they are also called “geostationary satellites”. However, only a limited number of satellites can be placed in that particular orbit because only one satellite can be put on each degree. Hence, 360 satellites can be placed in an imaginary circle above the globe.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) allocates the satellite place in geostationary orbit on a first-come-first-serve basis. But after allotment of a position, a deadline is needed for a party to launch its satellite in a given time and incase of failure, the allotment is handed over to other nations or parties who were in queue.

According to Secretary SUPARCO, in the 1980s, Pakistan booked eight slots in the orbit. In mid 90s Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) inked an agreement with Alcatel for a satellite. But in the mean time, a few telecommunication satellites launches failed worldwide and other problems halted the launch of the Pakistani satellite, causing Alcatel to cancel the agreement. Pakistan then also lost its allotted slots in orbit.

The deadline of the only slot left, 38° East, was April 19, 2003 and after that Pakistan also lost this space. The Former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf asked the authorities to find a solution. A high level committee reported that buying and replacing a satellite of Hughes is the only option to secure the slot.

So Pakistan bought the Hughes satellite designed for Indonesia and moved it in the occupied slot in December 2002.

Paksat 1R

A hallmark of Pak-China joint venture, Paksat 1R will be launched on August 14, 2011, the Independence Day of Pakistan, which also happens to be the date for the 50th anniversary of SUPARCO. Working on this project will also give experience and confidence to Pakistani scientists and engineers. Many of the testing elements have been developed by experts of SUPARCO.

But the question is that why is Pakistan developing a telecommunication satellite rather than taking advantage of many commercially available satellites?

Siraj answered that it is not only important for capacity building but for self-reliance purposes as well in case of an embargo or other hurdles from advance countries as seen in past.

Siraj said that the Paksat 1R data and signals will be received by satellite ground stations located in Karachi and Lahore. Paksat 1R will have 26 transponders which will carry dozens of digital TV channels.

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