On the cons of satellites

Posted on February 13, 2009  /  4 Comments

Satellites were the darlings of the development set back when I was in grad school in the 1980s.   When I returned to Sri Lanka and started working at the Arthur C. Clarke Centre for Modern Technologies, one of my assignments was to get Sri Lanka connected to the Internet via satellite.  It didn’t, and I left.

As a result, I’ve acquired quite a bit of knowledge on satellites along the way.  So when I heard that the government was going to name a LEO (Low Earth Orbital) satellite for Sir Arthur C. Clarke (the originator of the concept of the exact opposite, Geostationary or High Earth Orbital satellites), I was intrigued.

Before large amounts of taxpayer money are committed to this project, it would be good to have a broad debate on the pros and cons.  I have not been able to identify any pros, but that was not for the lack of trying.

Here is my effort to get the debate started:

Speaking of the second geostationary satellite, Mr Kariyapperuma had stated that “the ‘geo’ can be used for broadcasting, communications and high speed Internet.” It can indeed be used for the first two, but one wonders whether a LKR 11,500,000,000 (11.5 billion) satellite is the highest priority for this little island which seems to be doing pretty well in terms of TV, radio and telecommunications. Satellites are usually required by large continental or archipelagic countries like India and Indonesia.


  1. You technocrats so lack imagination! Surely, the pros of having our own satellite are clear when you give some thought. Here are some:

    1. Sri Lanka will be able to hold its head high in both LEO and GEO, without having to be second to any other country. Gleaming satellite with Lion flag on it is worth every last Rupee, even if it empties the Treasury (or what is left of it).

    2. We Sri Lankans then won’t have to worry about our communications being spied upon by other countries or multinational corporations many of who are part of the global alliance of anti-Sinhala Buddhist forces out to screw our thrice blessed land. This is vital for our national security.

    3. With our own satellite, we can join our friendly countries like China, Iran and North Korea who are (or will soon be) part of the Space Club of nations. Western imperialists won’t like this!

    Finally, just imagine the massive PR value in being able to say: Mahinda launched a satellite (‘chandrikawa’ in Sinhala) that (former President) Chandrika couldn’t do during all her years in power! That alone is worth bankrupting the nation.

  2. I have to admit that I had completely missed the tremendous possibilities of launching a chandrika into space. Thank you for pointing it out.

  3. Ravaya has carried a Sinhala translation of the LBO column in its Feb 21 issue.

  4. Exactly my thoughts Chandrikavo

    We have Mihin Lanka. So why not Mihin Chandrika?