India will launch the 'South Asia Satellite' today from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. (File photo)
Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh: A 28-hour countdown is underway for India's gift to its neighbours -- the Rs 235-crore South Asia Satellite -- which will lift off today from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. India's space diplomacy is seen as a move to counter to China's growing influence in the area. While seven nations that are part of SAARC, including India, will use the satellite, the biggest beneficiaries could be Bhutan and Maldives as the rest have their own fledgling space programmes. Pakistan is not participating in the project.
Here are the Top 10 facts in this big science story:
The Indian space agency ISRO, which built the 2,230-kg communication satellite over three years, said the launch is set for 4.57 pm on Friday. The satellite had cost Rs 235 crore and the total cost of the project was Rs 450 crore.
In his radio address Mann Ki Baat on April 30, Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to the satellite, saying the "spirit of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas... inclusive development for all" is not confined to India alone. "It applies to global context too. And very specially to our neighbouring countries," he said.
The facilities of the satellite, the Prime Minister said, "will go a long way in addressing South Asia's economic and developmental priorities".
The functions of the South Asia satellite will include natural resources mapping, telemedicine, education, deeper IT connectivity.
The satellite will be propelled into space by the Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle or GSLV. This will be its 11th flight.
The satellite has 12 transponders -- devices that help in communication. Each nation will get access to at least one transponder. India said it was ready to help them with the ground infrastructure.
The satellite will also provide hot-lines among the participating nations, which will be useful for the management of natural disasters.
Besides India, the satellite will cater to Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.
Pakistan has opted out of the project, saying it had its "own space programme". Pakistan has five satellites but lacks heavy duty launchers and satellite fabrication facilities.
M Annadurai, the chief of ISRO's Satellite Center, said a satellite "does not see any borders".