Skip to main content

Bigger rockets to help ISRO tap $3 bn global launch biz

The perfect launch of 10 satellites, two Indian and eight foreign, simultaneously by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-9 has catapulted the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) into a new orbit. The world record mission not only demonstrates capability to launch small satellites but also puts ISRO’s commercial arm, Rs 660-crore Antrix Corporation, in a competitive position to capture a portion of the over $3-billion global satellite launch business. But if ISRO seeks to tap this market aggressively, it will have to shift focus to launch bigger rockets and heavier satellites.

Satellite launch for applications spanning direct-to-home (DTH) services, global positioning systems (GPS), education, telecom, weather monitoring and others is increasing worldwide. But the launch costs are prohibitively-high. Here, ISRO’s satellite launch services at about 60-70% cheaper costs could provide a boost to India’s space programme. “Today, PSLV is one of the proven vehicles to carry satellites. We will offer more launch products in the global market,” Antrix Corp ED KR Sridhara Murthi told ET over phone from the Sriharikota rocket launch site.

However, the challenge will be to demonstrate capability to launch heavy satellites, weighing over four tonnes. Indian rocket scientists say that such capability will be available by 2009 when ISRO readies its heavier rocket GSLV Mark-III. “PSLV is good for small satellites. The GSLV rocket is capable of carrying 2 to 2.2-tonne satellite. The Mark III GSLV vehicle and future launch vehicles will help us capture 10-15% of the market,” adds Mr Murthi.

The cluster of satellites lifted by PSLV C-9 in its 13th mission included two Indian satellites, Cartosat-2A weighing 690 kg and a 83 kg mini satellite and eight nano satellites weighing 16 kg to 27 kg from Canada, Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. At present India has the capability of carrying small satellites of less than 100 kg to nearly 2.25 tonnes capacity, an area dominated by Russia, China, Ukraine and the European Space Agency.

Globally, the 720-tonne Ariane 5 rocket built by Arianespace of France can effectively put a five-tonne satellite into orbit. But the one way fare is a whopping $120 million. ``Rockets that can carry a very heavy payload will be in demand to put the next generation of super-sized satellites into space,’’ says an expert.

Other rockets capable of putting heavy satellites into space like Atlas V of America’s United Launch Alliance (ULA) can take up to eight tonnes into orbit, but are rarely available for non-US missions. Likewise, the Delta IV rocket built by the ULA is primarily for US military use. Most commercial satellites weigh between three tonnes and five tonnes and Ariane 5 can carry two into space at once.

Where India could score is the low cost of putting satellites into designated orbits. ``Launch market is a risky business requiring big investments. Countries around the world are looking for low launch cost options and this is where we could play,’’ says Mr Murthi. In the $250 billion global space market, launch vehicles account for two-thirds of the total cost. The remaining goes into building satellites and ground support for monitoring and maintaining them.

ISRO and Antrix Corp could potentially target all areas. Making rockets to lift heavier satellites successfully could provide the boost to go for a bigger share of this pie.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

LCA's Naval version prepares to roll out

India's first indigenous Naval Light Combat Aircraft, the LCA (Navy) NP1 is scheduled to roll out from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) design hangar on July 6.The Defence Ministry has said that the aircraft will be an important milestone for the prestigious Naval Program of Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Bangalore.The Chief of The Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma would be the Chief Guest at the function.'Roll-Out' is a significant milestone when the aircraft is brought out of the build hangar, where the aircraft is actually assembled part by part, ready for the phase of systems integration tests leading to Ground runs, taxi trials and flight.Once the ground based tests are completed, the NP1 is expected to fly by the end of this year and the NP2 is likely to fly by the end of 2011.The aircraft, with state of the art technologies and punch, is designed to operate from the future Indigenous aircraft carriers the Navy…

Intercontinental ballistic missiles well within reach

Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) is the deceptively bland name that obscures from public view the Defence Research & Development  Organisation’s (DRDO’s) most glamorous laboratory. At the DRDO missile complex here in Hyderabad, ASL develops the ballistic missiles that, in the ultimate nuclear nightmare, will carry Indian nuclear weapons to targets — thousands of kilometres away. Foreign collaboration is seeping into many areas of R&D, but ASL’s technological domain — the realm of strategic ballistic missiles — is something that no country parts with, for love or for money. No foreigner would ever set foot in ASL.
But Business Standard has been allowed an exclusive visit. The erudite, soft-spoken director of ASL, Dr V G Sekharan, describes the technologies that were developed for the DRDO’s new, 5,000-kilometre range Agni-5 missile, which was tested flawlessly in April. He reveals nothing except restraint stood between India and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that…

GSLV Mark III with crew module launched successfully

India successfully launched its biggest ever rocket on Thursday, including an unmanned capsule which could one day send astronauts into space, the latest accomplishment of its ramped-up space programme.
The rocket, designed to carry heavier communication and other satellites into higher orbit, blasted off from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
On Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the test mission as "yet another triumph of (the) brilliance and hard work of our scientists."
"This was a very significant day in the history of (the) Indian space programme," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman KS Radhakrishnan said from mission control as fellow scientists clapped and cheered.
ISRO scientists have been riding high since an Indian spacecraft successfully reached Mars in September on a shoe-string budget, winning Asia's race to the Red Planet and sparking an outpouring of national pride.
Although India has successfully launched lighter satellit…