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ISRO bags launch orders for Italian, Algerian satellites

Antrix Corp Ltd, the marketing arm of the Indian Space research Organisation (ISRO),  has bagged launch orders from Algeria and Italy for earth observation satellites that will be put into orbit next year by the agency's workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

The contract from the Algerian space agency is for the launch of its 200kg Alsat-2A, remote sensing satellite. For Antrix, this is the first ever contract from an African nation. Algeria retains the option to contract for the launch of a second satellite.

The Italian space agency Agenzia Spaziale Italiana, has contracted for the launch of its IMSAT satellite, which, incidentally will become the second satellite from this European country to be boosted into space by ISRO.  Earlier, in April 2007, ISRO launched the Agile, a 352kg scientific satellite for the same agency.

No financial details have been disclosed for these deals.

Along with the Algerian and Italian payloads, a 100kg satellite from Singapore's  Nanyang Technological University as well as the Cubesat, a three-satellite package from the Netherlands, would also piggyback on heavier Indian satellites, said KR Sridhara Murthi, managing director of Antrix.

Murthi also said his organisation was in talks with South African and Nigerian space agencies for contracting similar missions.  He also mentioned that Antrix was looking at ''bigger opportunities'' such as the launch of remote sensing satellites, with heavier payloads of around 800kg.

Thanks to the advantages that the PSLV offers, ISRO can carry satellites of up to 1,700kg into low-earth orbit at two-thirds the cost charged by firms such as International Launch Services, owned by Space Transport Inc. and two Russian organizations, Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and RSC Energia.

Low-earth orbit is the region above earth between 200km and 2,000km, ideal to place earth observation or remote sensing satellites.

ISRO has only recently entered the global satellite manufacturing and launch industry, which is expected to grow to $145 billion (Rs6.3 trillion) over 10 years to 2016, from $116 billion in the 10 years to 2006, according to Paris-based research firm Euroconsult.

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