The Government yesterday distanced itself from the first communications satellite to be launched today, despite it being endorsed by Scientific Affairs Senior Minister Tissa Vitarana and backed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s youngest son Rohitha.
Sri Lanka’s Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRCSL) Director Anusha Palpita told Daily Mirror yesterday that the government was in no way involved in the satellite launch.
“It is a venture undertaken by a private company and we are not involved in the project in any capacity. However, the company has applied for a downlink and uplink services’ licence from the TRCSL. We have not granted approval yet,” he said.
Mr. Palpita said TRCSL approval was required for new satellite services to be provided to local consumers just like the licence granted to television stations, corporations and other telecommunication carriers to promote their space-technology related services within the country.
He said the stationing of the satellite due to be launched today, is not based on a Sri Lankan footprint (the ground area of the communication satellite’s receivers and transmitters that offer coverage).
“At present Sri Lanka possess two satellite footprints but this particular satellite has not obtained approval for Sri Lankan footprints,” he said adding that even if the company applied for approval to obtain a local footprint, it would take at least two or three years because approval had to be sought from the International Telecommunications Union and other neighboring countries prior to reserving a footprint.
Mr. Palpita said though discussions were carried out on several occasions concerning the launch of a satellite with government involvement, the task was not undertaken as it would cost about USD400 million.
“It is a huge investment and there is no guarantee of a return on the funds invested,” he added.
What’s described as Sri Lanka’s first communications satellite – SupremeSAT I, is due to be launched today at the Chinese Xichang satellite launch centre at 3.43 p.m. (local time). During the news conference held on Tuesday at the minister’s office, it was announced that two other satellites will be launched next year and in 2015, as part of a five-year project handled by the private-owned Sri Lankan company Supreme Group. The design, manufacture and production of the satellites are assisted by the China Great Wall Industry Corporation at an estimated cost of USD320 million. (Lakna Paranamanna)