ISRO ready to support, invest in building capability of private space launch firms: VSSC Chief

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will support the country's private space sector in space activity, including firms that offer launch vehicle services for satellites, according to a senior ISRO official.

"We will be fully supporting this activity...we will invest and create this capability," S Somnath, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), a unit of ISRO, said on Saturday.

Somnath spoke briefly about ISRO's support for the private industry at The Indus Entrepreneurs conference of startups in the business of space, held in Chennai this week. "I want to assure you that we will not create any issues for you."

ISRO hopes to be a role model for private sector players, he added.

 ISRO ready to support, invest in building capability of private space launch firms: VSSC Chief

Kailasavadivoo Sivan, the chairperson of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), arrives to attend a news conference at its headquarters in Bengaluru, India. Image: Reuters.

The space agency is in the middle of handing over the manufacturing its workhorse, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, to private sector players in India. So far, private firms like Walchandnagar Industries, Godrej Space and L&T among others have signed contracts with ISRO to manufacture sub-systems for ISRO's launch vehicles. The agency would later assemble the vehicle for launch at its launch facility in Sriharikota. ISRO intends for the entire manufacture and launch of the PSLV to be taken over by the private sector in the near future, to leave its engineers and scientists more time to advance in new areas where launch vehicle technology is concerned.

What's standing in the way?

For the private sector to handle launch vehicles, the Parliament will first have to pass the yet-pending Space Activities Bill, Somnath told BusinessLine in an interview.

A model of ISRO's SSLV rocket. Image: Maxima Vigilantia

A model of ISRO's SSLV rocket. Image: Maxima Vigilantia

According to an estimate in the report, some 15,000 satellites are expected to be launched over the next 6-9 years. The cost of launching them is pegged at roughly $150 billion (Rs 10.8 trillion). Not unlike the global market, ISRO, too, is eyeing a slice of the profit, betting on its Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) project to have its maiden launch by the year-end or early 2020.

The cost of developing this rocket, Somnath said, is one-hundredth of what it cost ISRO to develop the PSLV. Still, launching a satellite on the SSLV won't be all that cheap, he clarifies.

Once demonstrated, ISRO will need no more than ten days' notice to set up the SSLV for launch (of which, the manufacturing will take just 3 days). When ready, the SSLV will have the capacity to launch 500 kilograms in satellites to low-earth orbit.

Also read: ISRO's commercial wing New Space India Limited receives its first order 

Also read: ISRO forms new commercial arm named NSIL to exploit the organisation's R&D work

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Updated Date: Sep 05, 2019 10:39:32 IST