BANGALORE, India — The Indian Cabinet has approved an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) proposal to build and launch two new communication satellites to augment the nation’s transponder capacity, which has not kept up with demand in recent years.

The GSAT-15 and GSAT-16 satellites are expected to cost a combined 17.25 billion rupees ($289 million) including construction and launch services aboard non-Indian rockets, according to a June 28 cabinet announcement.    

The GSAT-15, according to the announcement, is similar to the GSAT-8 satellite carrying 24 Ku-band transponders that was launched aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket in May 2011. 

The newer satellite will cover the entire Indian mainland with Ku-band capacity for services including direct-to-home television broadcasting. The satellite will utilize proven hardware and be built by ISRO in 18 months at a cost of 8.6 billion rupees, including launch, the announcement said.

The GSAT-16  “will meet contingency requirements, protect services of existing users, and will augment and support existing telecommunication, television, [very small aperture terminals] and other satellite based services in the country,” the announcement said. This satellite will be similar to GSAT-10 that was launched by an Ariane 5 in September. GSAT-10 carried 30 transponders in normal C-band, lower extended C-band and Ku-band.   

GSAT-16 is expected to cost 8.65 billion rupees, including launch services and insurance, and will be built by ISRO in 24 months, the announcement said.

The Indian National Satellite system currently has nine operational satellites with a combined 195 transponders, less than half the number targeted by India’s 11th 5-year plan that ended in 2012. 

Based in Bangalore, Killugudi S. Jayaraman holds a doctorate in nuclear physics from the University of Maryland and a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He was formerly science editor of the...