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Antrix cloud on Isro boss
- Under S-band glare, space agency arm seeks revamp

New Delhi, Feb. 12: India’s space agency chairperson indicated today that he is likely to lose one of his three posts but stonewalled queries on why the agency continued to pursue a satellite transponder deal it had been ordered to cancel eight months ago.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chairperson K. Radhakrishnan said the Space Commission — the nation’s apex space policy-making body — had decided to restructure Isro’s commercial arm, Antrix Corporation.

Under the proposed restructuring, Radhakrishnan, who is also chairperson of the Space Commission, is likely to give up his third position as head of Antrix, whose deal with Devas Multimedia, a private company, has erupted into controversy.

A government committee will look for a new chairperson for Antrix.

In January 2005, Antrix signed a deal with Devas, a private company, pledging transponders on two satellites to be built by Isro for satellite-based mobile communication applications. But after a reassessment of India’s spectrum requirements and an internal review of the deal initiated by Radhakrishnan in December 2009, the Space Commission had instructed Isro in July 2010 to annul the contract.

But Devas asserted today that neither Radhakrishnan, nor senior Isro and Antrix officials, nor members of the Space Commission had given the company any indication that there was trouble brewing over the contract.

The company said that when media reports about a possible cancellation of the contract first surfaced around July 2010, it had “proactively volunteered” to clarify any issues but received no signals that anything was wrong.

“Devas met the chairman of Isro/Antrix as well as senior officials from Isro and the Space Commission and corresponded with them over a period of several months through November 2010,” Devas president Ramachandran Viswanathan told The Telegraph.

Lunar mission

America’s space agency Nasa has asked Isro to join its first robotic lunar mission in 2017, aimed at fetching a kilogram of rocks from the Moon, senior officials of the space organisation said today.

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