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ISRO Set To Launch Heaviest Satellite For Telecom, TV

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Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation were set to launch their heaviest satellite to retire an old one sent up in 1999 and ensure continuity of telecom, TV and weather services, officials said. The satellite, officially called GSAT-5P, will blast off on the state-run space agency’s geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle, or GSLV, and scientists hope they will be three times lucky in the seventh such attempt they will make on Monday.

ISRO Set To Launch Heaviest Satellite For Telecom, TV “Everything is normal and going as per schedule,” said S. Satish, the agency’s director for publications and public relations. “The rocket’s full system scan went off well and we are now gearing up for a launch-rehearsal Friday,” said Satish. “If the scientists are satisfied with the rocket’s condition then a final clearance for the flight will be given,” another official said, adding that the final countdown is slated for Dec 20 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. The launch vehicle is 51 metres tall, weighs 418 tonnes and costs around Rs.175 crore (Rs.1.75 billion). The satellite, with a payload of 2,310 kg, has a price tag of Rs.125 crore. ISRO has till date sent up six GSLV rockets with satellites, of which only two missions were full successes and one a partial victory. The rest could not accomplish their mission of slinging the satellite into their intended path of orbit.

The two successful launches were in 2003 and 2004, and put into space an experimental communication satellite GSAT-2 and another for educational purposes Edusat. The Dec 20 launch is to replace Insat2E that was intended to cater to Asia and Australia. The Dec 20 launch is also the first time ISRO is sending up its geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle in December. The earlier launches were in April with two flights in 2001 and 2010, September with two in 2004 and 2007 and one each in May 2003 and July 2006. According to officials, the rocket’s maiden flight in 2001 could not attain success as it was not able to sling its satellite, GSAT-1, into the intended orbit. In 2006, the agency had to destroy its rocket mid-air for the first time in the agency’s history.

The 2007 flight was considered a partial success and the April 2010 flight carrying the GSAT-4 satellite is considered historic as the rocket’s cryogenic engine, too, was made in-house by the space agency. They were using Russian-made cryogenic engines earlier. The Dec 22 launch will again be on a Russian engine.

Unfortunately, the April 2010 mission failed as the rocket fell into the Bay of Bengal due to a malfunction in the indigenous cryogenic engine. ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan had then said the next launch with an Indian engine will be within a year. Over the years, the carrying capacity of the geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle has also increased — from 1,530 kg in 2001 for GSAT-1 to 2,220 kg for GSAT-4 in April 2010. The latest has a payload of 2,310 kg, with 36 transponders — an automatic receiver and transmitter of communication or broadcast signals. A successful launch of the satellite will take the agency’s transponder capacity to around 235 from 200 in orbit now.

-HT

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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