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
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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.