Communication satellite launch: A giant leap for Sri Lanka
Posted on December 1st, 2012

By Shirajiv Sirimane-Courtesy The Sunday Observer

It was President Mahinda Rajapaksa who did the impossible by ending 30-years of terrorism by leading a humanitarian operation, fulfilling one of the election pledges he made.

The rocket at the launch pad

Technicians busy with last minute preparations

Governor Central Bank, Ajith Nivard Cabraal said that this was followed by clearing millions of landmines in record time. He said the opening of the Southern Expressway and several other projects have also proved that Sri Lanka too can do what the world super powers are doing, taking the country closer to its goal of becoming the Wonder of Asia.

The positive sentiments related to the end of terrorism was first reflected in the tourism sector with the industry positioned to soon achieve a golden double of one million arrivals and one million US dollars in revenue.

The New York Times said that Sri Lanka is one of the top ten destinations to visit which was followed by Lonely Planet , dubbed the tourists’ “ƒ”¹…”bible’ naming Sri Lanka as a must visit destination.

The country’s investment index ranking improved while it was also said that Sri Lanka is one of the best countries to be born in.

Another achievement Sri Lanka could be proud of was witnessed last week when Sri Lanka moved to a platform of a few elites, owning a communication satellite, once again proving that “ƒ”¹…”Sri Lanka too can’.

However, it was sad that the Opposition and some sections of the media tried to downplay this glorious moment, trying to get undue political mileage and trying to take the shine off this glorious achievement of Mother Lanka. The Opposition asked as to how money was raised for this project, even saying that this was “ƒ”¹…”KP (LTTE) Money’.

Clarifying, Chairman SupremeSAT, M.N. Manivannan said that the US$ 320 million investment is for the whole project over the next five years. “In today’s world this is not a magic number to sit and worry about. First of all, I want every Sri Lankan to believe that such amounts can indeed be raised in the financial world and one need not think that it is only a government which can raise such amounts of money.” “The first phase, SupremeSAT-I is nearly a US$ 100 million commitment. This is already arranged by way of supplier’s credit supported by a commercial bridge loan facility. Ours is a private company.

“The fact that we have become exclusive partners of many global companies will demonstrate that we are above the rest. We neither depend on the Government nor the public to raise money. The art of raising the necessary financing for our business ventures is our commercial capability. No one needs to have undue worries about our ability or performance since that is totally up to us to manage.”

The proud moment of the rocket taking off

“When we made our initial efforts to design, manufacture and launch a satellite owned by us, none of the Western manufacturers took us seriously. With the raised capital and firm plans in place, it was still an uphill task to find a suitable partner who would be willing to offer us the technology support. This is when we contacted the Chinese State-owned China Great Wall Industry Corporation.

“Ever since, it has been a journey of unmatched growth. Every country likes to see its national flag and respect it. When it was taken to space for the first time, some elements went to the extreme of questioning this as well, rather than appreciating it. Questions were asked as to why if the project was not funded by the Government, the rocket carried the Sri Lankan flag.

National flag

“How proud were Sri Lankans when Susanthika Jayasinghe carried the Lankan flag after winning a medal at the Sydney Olympics and when the Sri Lanka cricket team won the World Cup in Pakistan?”

“This is a widely asked question and unfortunately a question which gives us a lot of pain. I don’t think citizens of any other country would ever ask this question.

“The reality is that after spending our own money and efforts, we could have painted our company logo or personal names on the rocket. However, we thought as true sons of our nation. We wanted to make our motherland proud. Whenever we get an opportunity to contribute, by bringing fame to our nation or national flag, we will not hesitate a minute.”

“And that is what we did. We wanted every Sri Lankan to share this glory. Every Sri Lankan individual or corporate has the right to use our national flag. Why would we hesitate to dedicate the glory to our nation and national flag instead of targeting petty personal or corporate glory?”

“As true patriots, we will always fly our national flag high during all moments of glory,” he said.

The rocket flying in to space

“It should be mentioned that any person who was not happy to witness that proud moment of our national flag reaching outer space is not fit to be a Sri Lankan. He/she is neither a patriot nor an individual with a balanced mind.”

Manivannan said, “There is unfair media focus and accusations with regard to Rohitha Rajapaksa’s involvement in the project. I am very proud to say that he is such a talented and capable space engineer without whom we would never have achieved this success in such a short span of time. His passion is space. He is qualified. He is dedicated and he is hard working.

“He has sacrificed his personal goals and has made a major contribution towards the technical aspect of our project.

“More than everything else he believes that his professional contribution should do good to Sri Lanka. I have no doubt that we make a great team and we will make our country reach greater heights in the very near future.

“We have worked hard, come a long way and have created history. These accomplishments have also created high expectations. We will now work much harder to live up to those expectations. “What we have demonstrated is just the beginning. We will continue this worthy journey, bringing more fame and glory to Sri Lanka. Things were not easy for us.

“We were not given anything on a platter. We fought our way through every single step and ours can be a true case study for any emerging Sri Lankan enterprise that dreams big and thinks global while protecting all national interests.”

Good relations

There were also attempts being made by elements trying to spoil the good relations between India and Sri Lanka, using this historic triumph.

“As a regional business conglomerate, we have more steady businesses in India than in any other country. We will never get into any transaction which will harm the interests of India.

“Besides, President Mahinda Rajapaksa will never let us use the Sri Lankan soil against the interests of India which he considers a true friend of Sri Lanka.”

“From the very inception of this project, we as a responsible corporate citizen has kept India informed of our business. We went to the extent of trying to secure Indian investment into our company and also to get technical assistance from India.

The proposed Pallekele complex from where the satellite would be controlled and where Sri Lankans would be trained in the space industry

“On a personal note, I have even invited Dr. Abdul Kalam to be an honorary chairman of our company (An offer he politely declined to accept due to policy reasons). What more could a business enterprise do to ensure that the Indian interests are looked after?”

“I must anyway reiterate that statements about the geopolitical issues on this project is a total myth,” he stressed.

According to Professor Lalith Gamage, Chairman, Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies who is in China for the launch, air space closure arrangements were confirmed for the launch. Temporary restricted areas were established, prohibiting all aircraft from flying in to the area during the launch window.

Geostationary orbit

He said that the satellite was launched into geostationary orbit, which is also known as the Clarke Orbit or the Clarke Belt in honour of Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the man who conceived the concept of communication through geostationary satellites. “I must appreciate the effort of the Supreme Group and its Chairman Manivannan in taking a lead role in this vital sector,” he said. Anywhere in the world, there are delays in launching satellites and in the case of SupremeSat too, there was a five-day delay.

“Even though launch delays are a common feature in the satellite industry, we have created much expectations in the minds of all patriotic Sri Lankans about this launch and it was our duty to now make sure that they are not getting frustrated with the delay. However, our engineering team headed by Rohitha Rajapaksa worked day and night and it was such a pleasure to finally witness the successful launch at 1813Hrs in Xi Chang “”…” China on November 27, taking one big leap, helping Sri Lanka on its path to become the Wonder of Asia.”

“The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible”.

– Sir Arthur C. Clarke


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