Satellite lessons for firms

India's space agency has offered to handhold industries through building satellites and launching vehicles on their own, space officials said on Monday.

By G.S. Mudur
  • Published 21.11.17
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New Delhi: India's space agency has offered to handhold industries through building satellites and launching vehicles on their own, space officials said on Monday.

They said this would be critical to meeting India's anticipated demand for about 18 new satellites annually over the next five years, and to increasing the number of launches from six during 2016-17 to 14 during 2022-23.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) intends to help industries that are already supplying myriad sub-systems and components for satellites and launch vehicles learn to assemble and integrate full space-ready systems.

It has already invited industries to participate in the assembly and integration of 30 new satellites within the next three years.

Under the plan, Isro will share with industry engineers the expertise and knowledge demanded by these tasks, either on Isro premises or at the industries' own sites.

"Our own capability is about nine or ten satellites a year, so we're hoping industries develop the capability to meet the country's demands," Mylswamy Annadurai, director of the Isro satellite centre, told The Telegraph.

Space officials say the rising demand for satellites and launches owes to the expansion of satellite applications to fields ranging from town planning and watershed management to geo-tagging of assets created under the rural job scheme.

Indian private and public-sector industries have been supplying subsystems and components to Isro for more than 25 years. But Isro itself has carried out the assembly and integration.

"But we're now reaching a saturation point under this mode of decentralised industry participation (with) assembly and integration only by Isro," said P. Kunhikrishnan, director of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, India's spaceport on Sriharikota island.

"We want to see a launch vehicle move directly from industry to our spaceport," he said, speaking at the conference, organised by industry chamber Ficci, Isro and Antrix, the space agency's commercial arm.

Industry executives welcomed the Isro offer. "This is a unique opportunity. Our engineers can learn new, sophisticated skills from masters; we can acquire that knowledge to help the domestic programme and take on similar assignments for foreign markets," said H.S. Shankar, managing director of Alpha Design Technologies. The Bangalore-based company has already participated in the assembly and integration of two Isro satellites on a trial basis.

Space officials say the entry of industry into assembly and integration will allow Isro's own scientists more time for advanced research and development and strategic planning.