The Indian Space Research Organisation is planning to replace at least ten communication satellites nearing the end of their mission life over the next few years with new, high-performance satellites.
The revamp will include multiple satellites to beam mobile network coverage, high-speed internet and television broadcasting in remote areas across the country, Dr K Sivan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) told the Economic Times.
The first of these satellite replacements was the GSAT-30, launched on 17 January. It replaced the INSAT 4A, which has pulled through 15 years in its high, geostationary orbit. GSAT-30 has joined ISRO's fleet of 16 functional satellites in orbit, specifically the geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) which is at an altitude of 36,000 kilometres. These satellites are often much heavier than satellites in low-Earth Orbiter (LEO), and are designed to last 12-15 years at their best.
Experts are of the opinion that these old satellites need replacement in line with technological changes over the years.
"Technologies progress a lot in 15 years and there are satellites which are 15 years old and they need replacement," said Ajey Lele, senior fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. "The second aspect is, both [defense] and commercial needs are increasing equally."
While demand is on the rise, one of ISRO's biggest bottlenecks in satellite technology is transponders " a communication, monitoring, or control device that picks up and automatically responds to an incoming signal.
The demand for these transponders in India is currently peaking. However, ISRO is still struggling to meet its target of 500 transponders, Lele told ET.
"At one point in time, ISRO had an ambitious plan (of having 500 transponders), but they are still trying to achieve that," Lele said. Many agencies are hiring foreign satellite transponders, which is something ISRO has refrained from doing thus far. With a long line of high-throughput satellites to launch over the next few years, ISRO could finally get its transponder game on.