India’s latest communication satellite GSAT-6A, successfully placed in orbit on Thursday, was once embroiled in controversy like its predecessor GSAT-6, launched in 2015. Also Read - Ola to offer free oxygen concentrators to the needy
The two satellites, weighing two tonnes, became a subject of controversy, as 90 per cent of their transponders were to be leased to Devas Multimedia Ltd by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) commercial arm Antrix Corporation under a deal, which was annulled in February 2011 on the ground that the country’s defence needs had to be met first. Also Read - Starlink satellite broadband service faces challenge in India, Elon Musk led company questioned
Under the controversial deal, the Bengaluru-based Devas was to use the transponders of GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A in the crucial S-Band wavelength – primarily kept for the country’s strategic interests – for its digital multimedia service for 12 years. Also Read - Today's Google doodle is all about India's 'satellite man': Here's all you need to know
Antrix had signed the $300 million contract with Devas in January 2005 and obtained sanction of the Space Commission and the Union Cabinet for the two satellites (GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A) without informing the government that the bulk capacity (90 per cent) would be leased to the multimedia service provider.
When the controversy broke in December 2009, the state-run ISRO ordered a review of the deal and subsequently the Space Commission had recommended its annulment on July 2, 2010. Antrix terminated the deal on February 25, 2011.
Subsequently, GSAT-6 was launched in 2015.
However, the controversy and the legal fight is continuing on the ground between the parties.
Venkatachari Jagannathan writes for IANS