Part of Pakistan’s Space Programme 2040, Chinese-manufactured PAKSAT-1R – an upgraded version of PAKSAT-1 – was launched on August 12 last year from China.
To be re-processed in 2026, the satellite, having a 15-year-long life cycle, covers televised information broadcast, relays signals and transmits cyber data (to televisions and radio channels, Internet and cable networks) from across three continents of Asia, Europe and Africa (for Pakistan).
It was manufactured by the China Great Wall Industry Cooperation (CGWIC) – a defence enterprise – in coordination with the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), an allied space body of the Ministry of Defence.
Since the introduction of the space programme by the National Command Authority (NCA) in July last year, the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), an affiliated strategic body of the NCA, partly executes the technical side of the satellite.
“This is a historical moment in Pakistan’s history,” Federal Defence Minister Naveed Qamar said while commenting on PAKSAT-1R’s first anniversary since its launch. “I congratulate the entire nation on one-year completion of our satellite’s stay in space,” he added.
“Pakistan would work closely with China for the further upgradation of the satellite, besides starting other joint ventures in the space sector,” said the minister, “This is just the beginning. We are eyeing on expanding our space projects with the help of China.”
About the financial constraints, the minister said that space programmes required hefty funding and enriched technical resources. “We have to keep in view the resources and budgetary allocations available to us, however.”
Naveed Qamar told TheNation that space programmes were being expanded in a way that the budgetary funds do not get constrained. He, however, asserted that Pakistan was ‘open’ to joint space ventures with any country, provided that it was willing to work with us.
The launch of PAKSAT-1R from China’s Satellite launch vehicle had drawn criticism, with fingers being pointed at Pakistan’s inability to get the satellite launched from its own launching pad, the Sonmiani Satellite Launch Centre, in rural Sindh, some 150 kilometres away from Karachi.
“We hope that Pakistan would become technologically self-sufficient and use its own launching pads for the launch of space satellites in the times to come,” CGWIC Space Projects In-charge Hu Gang told this scribe from Beijing.
“As it was Pakistan’s first communication satellite, it seemed appropriate that any risks from pre-launch to post-launch stages be avoided.”
CGWIC spokesperson and one of its vice-presidents, Yuan Zhongshen, said his corporation and the SUPARCO had shown strong willingness to work together for the exploration of space prospects. “Our cooperation would continue.”
CGWIC President Yin Liming would visit Pakistan at a later stage to discuss and execute options on launching new space programmes, the spokesperson added.
As a result of an agreement in October 2008, China and Pakistan agreed to manufacture PAKSAT-1R. In March 2009, Chinese and Pakistani teams purportedly kicked off the project that was said to have been completed in February 2011. The satellite was kept in pre-operational phase for around six months before getting clearance for space launch in August last year.
The letter ‘R’ in ‘PAKSAT-1R’ is the abbreviation of ‘Replacement’ since PAKSAT-1R stands as the replacement of previous satellite PAKSAT-1. The PAKSAT-1R is known as geostationary communication satellite because its rotation period around its orbit is same as that of the earth’s, ie one year.
The satellite has in-built monitoring features controlled through the Satellite Ground Station (SGS) that Pakistan set up with China’s help. The satellite can broadcast hundreds of television programmes to Pakistani viewers at the same time.
The previous satellite – PAKSAT-1 – was first owned by the international aircraft manufacturing company, Boeing.
Manufactured by an American company, the communication satellite was handed to Indonesia which abandoned it sometime later due to technical reasons. Pakistan then acquired the same satellite PAKSAT-1 on lease. Unlike PAKSAT-1R, PAKSAT-1 did not have high-powered frequency adjustment, broadcasting coverage, data carrying and signal relaying features.
In this year’s fiscal budget, the SUPARCO has received over Rs 124 million for its National Satellite Development Programme (NSDP), nearly Rs 115 million for the Satellite Bus Development Facility (Phase-I), Rs 46 million for providing logistics support to the NSDC and over Rs 41 million for Altitude and Orbit Control System (AOCS) out of the SUPARCO’s total developmental budget of Rs 717 million.