OPINION

Pakistan’s Satellite

Columnist Muhammad Irshad gives details about Pakistan’s reach for space.

The search for scientific knowledge, exploration of the unknown, and establishment of man’s capability in space have been and shall remain to be of great fascination to individuals as well as to nations. The earth controlled satellites have not only provided satisfaction to this fascination, but have also proved to be of immense value in the fields of economy, culture, defence and many other areas. What can a satellite do? It is really a very lengthy list, but few examples might be of interest for the readers.

(a) Egypt plans to utilise satellites for discovering water in the desert. The American Dr. Mosallam Shaltout, professor of sun and space researches at astronomic meteorology and geophysics institute at Helwan observatory, is to lead Egyptian research team to use American satellite “Grass” for observing the large Nubian underground water store at western desert, thus estimation of water size and observance of its level.

(b) China is using satellite communication technology to enhance its efforts to ensure quality education in vast underdeveloped western regions, where educational resources are relatively inadequate.

(c) Various kinds of satellites, including communications, meteorology, remote sensing and geophysics satellites, are, or may become, useful tools in disaster prevention, preparedness and relief. They already provide operational capability for storm warnings and search-and rescue efforts. Other capabilities such as improved flood prediction and global mobile communications during relief are close within reach. Still others, such as earthquake prediction, require considerable research.

(d) U.S. uses satellite constellation to guide missiles in current war effort. NASA’s Feb. 2000, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) made possible use of Global Positioning Satellite (GPS)- guided missiles in U.S. military effort against Afghanistan, said spokesman for Global security org, a defence research organization. “This is a wonderful technology... Without the elevation data, the [GPS-guided] bomb would be useless.”

(e) Appolo11, which went up about thirty years earlier, had taken photographs of the world in which all the major minerals were identified. These photographs were displayed in many exhibitions in Pakistan. Now the technology has been much refined and probably all the world mineral data is available with USA.

The list of Satellite uses is really very long. There are the intelligence data collection uses, the defence uses which include knowing the exact location of a target or aid for launching your own missiles, there are the weather uses both for civil and military purposes etc. Satellites deep in space, process and relay information to places all over the world, in the form of television shows, music radio, and much more.
The Indian government, fully aware of the advantages of space programmes, has never wavered from its total commitment of liberal funding for ISRO(Indian Space Research Organisation). As a result of this support, India’s space programme now costs about 2 billion annually and she employs twelve thousand scientists, engineers and technicians. In addition VSSC (Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre) at Thumba, employs about 6000 scientists and engineers for the designing and building of rockets. USA, Soviet Union, Germany and France are helping India in the space technology. Today, India has ten satellites in space. They are IRS-IC, IRS-ID, IRS-P3, IRS-P4 and the TES in the polar sun-synchronous orbits and Insat-2C, Insat-2DT, Insat-2E, Insat-3B and GSAT-I are in the geo-stationary orbit. Indians have announced the apparent uses of these satellites, which are all peaceful and harmless. But keeping in view the history and Indian designs, it is almost unimaginable if each of these satellites is not fitted with some spying machine to spy over Pakistan.
Another major recent accomplishment of the Indian Space programme has been the development of the indigenous capability to launch the 1.2 ton class of satellites into a polar sun synchronous orbit, which was demonstrated by the launch of IRS- I D by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C I (PSLV-C 1), in 1997. The next mission, PSLV-C2 is ready for launch. The spare payload capability of the mission is being utilized to launch auxiliary satellites from the Republic of Korea and Germany.
The performance of Pakistan’s space programme, and particularly that of SUPARCO (Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission-Pakistan’s agency for space programmes) was always much below the desired levels. Pakistan has three ground stations for communication with the other countries through INTELSAT and some more satellite stations are being established for communication within the country. The first satellite by Suparco, Badr-1, launched in July 1990, was mocked by the international media, and some British papers claimed it to be the ditto copy of a British student’s thesis in UK.
Badr-2 was successfully injected into the earth orbit at 10:30 pm (PST) on Monday, 10th of December 2001 from Russian Cosmodrome at Baikonour, Kazakistan on a Zenit-2 rocket. It is orbiting the earth in a near circular sun-synchronous orbit. The Badr-2 will help Pakistan in the creation of infrastructure for space qualified system and acquisition of know-how and capability in the field of satellite attitude control. This gravity gradient stabilised small Earth Observation satellite was designed by Space Innovations Limited [SIL] of the United Kingdom. While spacecraft sub-systems are SIL designed and manufactured, the spacecraft integration is being performed by SUPARCO of Pakistan, demonstrating the use of relatively inexpensive micro satellite missions in the field of space technology transfer. Most of the equipment used in the satellite was acquired in Pakistan to stimulate the local software industry. Badr-2 would conduct four major on-board experiments, viz, earth imaging, use of radiation dosimeter, data storage and forwarding and charged battery experiment.
There are four objectives of the project. First, Badar-2 has a CCD camera through which the earth’s imaging could be done. Second, there is equipment in the satellite with the help of which signals sent to it, that is, e-mail etc, could be stored. These signals might be forwarded later for onward delivery. The satellite would also be able to measure the radiation through a dosimeter. The last objective is to carry out the battery-end-of-charge-detection. The successful launching of the satellite would also demonstrate Pakistan’s ability to guide and control satellites from the ground. The successful operation of the CCD camera on board the Badar-2 satellite would be a first step towards the acquisition of know-how for taking pictures of earth from specialized digital cameras.
The cost of making Badar-2 was considerably more than the first satellite. Badar-2 is far more complex and sophisticated than Badar-1. The satellite is made of an aluminium alloy and had a total mass of 68.5kg. It would be launched in a circular orbit of 1050km with an orbital period of 106 minutes. A typical pass over Pakistan would last between 10 to 15 minutes. This may be called a humble beginning of Pakistan space age , but it is far short of the professional requirements, and is anyway, peanuts as compared to the Indian capabilities.
Thus, it was a great leap forward for Pakistan’s space programme, when on July 3, 2002, announcing the federal cabinet decision, Pakistan’s minister for science and technology, Dr Atta-ur-Rehman said that the country was acquiring a Huges Global Systems Satellite (HGS3) on lease for five years at an initial cost of around $ 4.5 millions. According to the minister, another 4.6 millions would be paid for operational expenses including the leasing cost for 34 transponders for the next five years. Justifying the decision, the minister said that given the urgent need of securing its slot in space, Pakistan has opted to get a defective but cheapest possible available satellite on lease. The cost of a satellite in working condition comes between $50 millions and $80 millions. The minister said, the satellite is American made and there will be complete security of the data transmission through it. When asked as to why Pakistan had gone for a used satellite, Dr Atta said, the cost of a new satellite is $ 250 to $ 300 million in the international market with a 15 years life cycle. This Pakistan’s satellite will be covering areas between Europe, Middle East, South East and Central Asia and Africa, and shall be positioned before April 30, 2003. He said, Pakistan is negotiating for the purchase of another satellite with Russian and American firms. This satellite now being purchased, will have 30 to 35 transponders while Pakistan needs only three to four for its requirement and the remaining could be used for commercial purposes.
The decision to buy Huges was taken by a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Atta and consisiting of seceratary IT & Telecom, Secretary Finance, Duepty Chairman Planning commission, D.G.SPD (Strategic Planning Division), Chairman PTA(Pakistan Telecommunication Authority), Chairman NTC(National Telecommunication Corporation) Chairman PTCL(Pakistan TeleCommunictions Limited) and Chairman SUPARCO (Space & Upper Atmospheric Research Commission). The committee’s plan is to develop a satellite within this breathing space of five years. For this purpose, SUPARCO has been directed to submit a PC-1.
The urgency to place its first satellite in the Geo-Stationary Orbit was realised in the middle of last year, by which time Pakistan had already lost four of its five allotted space slots. The five slots were allotted to Pakistan by ITU (International Telecommunication Union), way back in 1984, but the country failed to launch any satellite till 1995. That year Pakistan again applied for and received the five slots, but once again the government failed to put up a satellite in orbit, losing four of it slots in the process. According to officials, if Pakistan failed to launch its satellite by April 19, 2003, the country will loose its fifth and last 38-degree east slot, and the availability of these space slots is getting difficult every day.
Pakistan’s Science and Technology Minister, dr Atta-ur Rehman said retention of the slot was important from commercial and strategic points of view as it would assure retention of a foothold in space. Air Vice Marshall Azhar Maud, Chairman NTC, said that a geo stationary satellite could be used to secure defence communication, act as a lookout for a missile attack and detect any nuclear detonation or explosion. M Nasim Shah of the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission(SUPARCO) said that the technology is vital for making the nuclear command and control mechanisms “credible”.
Pakistan has nuclear weapons, as does neighbouring India, which already has a series of satellites in orbit. In recent months, Pakistan and India had been engaged in serious sabre-rattling over territorial and various other political disputes. Shah, however, said that satellites could contribute to peace and stability by providing timely intelligence on one’s adversary and by reducing suspicions of “warlike intentions”. It can also provide early warning regarding potential threats. A satellite designed to detect the launch of ballistic missiles bolsters deterrence by improving the likelihood that either side could retaliate effectively, he said. In addition, it can ensure that reliable links between countries would be available for crisis management.
Officials at the science and technology ministry, however, are insistent that the leased satellite would be used only for commercial purposes. In an interview, Salman Ansari, advisor to the science ministry, called the leased satellite a “win-win” commercial venture for Pakistan since 38 East is a pivotal slot. He pointed out that the satellite’s footprints fall on the commercially hot markets of India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Africa and Europe. “We can very easily recover the cost of the present satellite as Pakistan’s current total use of transponder is not more than four,” said Ansari. “The remaining we can sell to other countries’ telecommunication or broadcasting companies.” While inviting international tenders in February for the leased satellite, the ministry said that recent developments in Pakistan and in Afghanistan enhanced the market needs for additional satellite capacity over the region. “The development of telecommunication, creation of backbone for trunking and TV broadcasts in Afghanistan require the satellite capacity to meet both short and long term needs,” it said. “Besides,” said ministry officials, “oil-rich Central Asian republics would also be served well due to limited footprints of existing regional satellites.”
The leased satellite is currently being used by Turkey but by December 23, this year, it would be moved from Turkey’s 50 degrees east slot to Pakistan’s 38 east. The Satellite is at present called Anatolia 1. (Its been called Palapa C1 / Hughes HGS 3 / Anatolia 1 / Paksat 1 !) Turkey itself is the third user of the satellite, which originally belonged to Hughes Global Services Company who are the operators of the satellite. The satellite HGS3 was first sold to Indonesia in 1996, and started life as palpa C1. It is a series 601 satellite, built by Boeing. It was launched on 31st January 1996 using an Atlas 2AS booster, and was slotted at 1500 east. (Palapa means “fruits of labour” in Indonesian). It was launched from Kourou in French Guiana. Unfortunately, the 601 series satellites have proved to be rather unreliable in orbit, and several have failed with electrical related problems. At least three seem to have been total losses, and more are damaged... On 24th November 1998, less than three years after launch, Palapa C1 experienced electrical problems. This problem was different from those afflicting some of the other satellites - in this case the Battery Charge Controller failed. This left the satellite with no way to recharge its onboard batteries during an eclipse period. This is a major fault on a satellite because it means that no backup power is available during the eclipse periods which happens twice every year. On undamaged satellites, the batteries provide the power needed to run the satellite for the few days every six months when the sun is in the wrong place to illuminate the solar cells. Due to the onboard failure, the transponders on Anatolia 1 now had to be switched off during this time.
As a result, its mission to provide telecommunications links for the Indonesian islands was finished after less than three years. An insurance claim was settled, and the satellite ownership passed to the insurance company. In January 1999, Hughes Global Services purchased the satellite from the insurers, the satellite was renamed HGS3, and work started to develop procedures that would allow the satellite a useful working life. (Despite this, the satellite still does not generate sufficient power to keep it running through the eclipse periods.
Kalitel, which is a USA based company, leased HGS3 from Hughes, and in December 2000, it was moved it to 500 East. Its name was changed again, to Anatolia 1. (50E is a Turkish registered orbital slot. It finally re-entered service on 12th February 2001. Anatolia-1 provide discount KU and C band coverage of Europe, Africa and Asia, and like other satellites, its life is 10 years in the geostationary orbit.
At the beginning of August 2002, it was announced that the Turkish lease had ended, and the satellite was to be leased to Pakistan for 5 years. It will be moved to 38E, a Pakistan registered orbital slot. Pakistan’s science ministry admits that the problem with the power pack persists, which does not allow the batteries to provide energy to the pay load during the eclipse period of 88 days a year which comes to an average of three hours per day between 11:00pm to 2:00am. However, the payload is fully functional, and the availability of the satellite transponders is more than 96% despite outages during the eclipse period.
The satellite should be operational in it’s new home by the end of December 2002. Pakistan will construct Paksat 2 to replace Paksat 1 by the end of the 5 year lease.

Satellite. Some specifications of the satellite at the time of its launch for Turkey were as follows:-
30 C band transponders (plus 8 spare). (All still operational).
6 Ku band transponders (10950-11690MHz / 13750-14490 MHz). (All still operational).
The 4 Ku band transponder frequencies to watch out for are:10990/ 11150/ 11490/ 11650 Mhz
4 transponders are available for normal band transmissions, and 2 are for use at higher frequencies for data transmission.
Average rated transmission power in Ku band: 50 dBW
Channel bandwidth: 72Mhz
Size: 21m (68ft 10 inches) across extended solar panels.
Weight: 1775 kg (3905 lbs).
After 22 years of the working of SUPARCO, the Paksat project was originally conceived in 1984 and is supposed to serve as the backbone of country’s defence, telecom, telecast , broadcast and information technology infrastructure. The total cost of Paksat project is estimated to be around Rs 3.6 billions, out of which Rs 0.720 billion has been allotted in 2002-2003 budget.
The American company, Huges is also not new in Pakistan. In 1984, in collaboration with Huges, SUPARCO conducted a feasibility study, defining the broad parameters of Paksat and estimated the cost at $400 million including two satellites, their launching and ground infrastructure. In 1990 the then government decided that the private sector should be involved in financing and operating the project. A review was carried out by Pakistan Investment Board (PIB) and in 1994, a request for proposal was floated, to obtain a response from the private sector. The federal cabinet in its meeting on April16, 1997 decided to proceed with the Paksat project on the basis of the letter of intent (LOI) earlier issued to Alcatel Spacecom from France on April 16, 1996.
A 15 year licence was issued to Alcatel on June 13, 1998 by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. However, Alcatel found their working very difficult for many reasons. One being government’s insistence that Alcatel should certify that it had not paid the kickbacks for the project, another issue was regarding lack of frequency coordination. Eventually, Alcatel found it’s working too difficult and finally withdrew with intimation in December 2000. The withdrawal at that crucial stage jeopardised the entire project, turning the once cost effective project into a possible expensive misadventure.
In February 2002, Pakistan again invited international proposals for positioning, deployment, operation and marketing of the communication system at the 38 degrees east slot. But none of the proposals received, qualified to meet the desired parameters and as a result, the government decided to contact the satellite owners and operators. Thus Pakistan is almost back to the 1984 period. The question, however, remains whether this time the country’s scientist would succeed in securing a permanent place in space? The situation is so urgent because not many slots are left in space now.
According to the 1997 statistics, out of a total of 3892 satellites launched, Russia/CIS are leading with 2548 satellites, followed by USA with 1214, France had 10, China 49, ESA(EU sat) 96, Japan 52 and India 8.
The allocation of space slots is the responsibility of ITU, which is responsible for all coordinating and recording procedures for space systems and earth satellites. The union includes 189 countries with over 500 private members from the telecommunication, broadcasting and information technology sectors. Pakistan became its member in 1947.
The human race is facing a new kind of warfare. Like it or not, space is a theatre of war and it must be studied in this regard thoroughly and seriously. The US department of defence currently spends an average of one billion on military satellites, and the civilian agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration is believed to spend in excess of 10 billion per year. India and Israel both spend about two billion dollars each year on their space programmes, as compared to only a lip service in Pakistan. In the ever-expanding frontier of space and in the unfolding opportunities for new applications, greater cooperation with developed countries should be envisaged, as this is an essential requirement. Space wars will also be as decisive as any other form of warfare, given their particular doctrines and weapons. Space technology will eventually become the dominant factor in determining our military strength or subjugation. Those who control the space will also control the world.

previouspagebackhome