Headline : ISRO’s new commercial arm gets first booking for launch
- NEWSPACE INDIA Limited (NSIL), the newly created second commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation, recently got its first contract.
- A private US space services provider, Spaceflight, has booked ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), which is yet to be tested, for launching a spacecraft.
- Spaceflight has had nine launches in the past with ISRO involving over 100 spacecraft on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
- ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) was originally scheduled to have its first development flight in July, 2019 but the flight has been pushed to the end of the year.
- It is suited for launching multiple microsatellites at a time and supports multiple orbital drop-offs.
- The SSLV can carry satellites weighing up to 500 kg to low earth orbit while the PSLV can launch satellites weighing in the range of 1,000 kg.
- It is the smallest vehicle at 110-tonne mass at ISRO and takes only 72 hours to integrate, unlike the 70 days taken now for a launch vehicle.
- Further, only six people will be required to do the job, instead of 60 people. This leads to the entire job being done in a very short time.
- The cost of the vehicle is only around Rs 30 crore which is one tenth of a PSLV.
- About 15 to 20 SSLVs would be required every year to meet the national demand alone.
- NSIL was incorporated in March 2019 under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS).
- The aim of NSIL is to use research and development carried out by ISRO over the years for commercial purposes through Indian industry partners.
- It will mass produce and manufacture the SSLV and the more powerful PSLV with the private sector in India through technology transfers.
- It will be involved in marketing spin-off technologies and products/services, both in India and abroad, and in any other subject which the government deems fit.
- It will deal with capacity building of local industry for space manufacturing.
- Antrix is the first commercial arm of ISRO incorporated in 1992.
- It is under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS).
- It promotes and commercially markets the products and services emanating from the Indian Space Programme.
- The current business activities of Antrix include:
- Provisioning of communication satellite transponders to various users
- Providing launch services for customer satellites
- Marketing of data from Indian and foreign remote sensing satellites
- Building and marketing of satellites as well as satellite sub-systems
- Establishing ground infrastructure for space applications
- Mission support services for satellites
Indian space industry
- The Indian space programme is one of the world’s fastest growing programmes.
- Ever since India sent a spacecraft to Mars in 2014, India has India has become one of the top-ranking space-faring nations which include the US, Europe, Russia, China and Japan.
- The space sector in India can broadly be categorized into upstream and downstream industries.
- Upstream industries include manufacturing of satellites, their parts and subsystems, and launch vehicles.
- Downstream industries include satellite-based services, such as satellite TV, communications, imagery etc.
- India is moving towards increasing its capacity and capabilities of using space technology not only for societal applications but also to support commercial space activities and pursue diplomatic and security objectives.
Indian Private sector participation
- India has a large Small-Medium-Enterprises (SMEs) base that caters within the traditional space agency-driven model.
- However, there is a stark gap in the capacity builtup in the private industry where the industry is mostly involved as tier-2/3 based vendors
- Presently there is no single industry vendor who has the capacity to deliver end-to-end systems.
- This creates bottleneck effects in the possible expansion of industry to the global supply chain, especially from an export perspective.
- ISRO’s opportunities for smaller players in the space sector are very restricted compared to larger national space programs, stifling the growth of private enterprise in the process.
Commercial Space Industry
- The value of the global space industry is estimated to be $350 billion and is likely to exceed $550 billion by 2025.
- A revolution is also under way in the small satellite market. Globally, 17,000 small satellites are expected to be launched between now and 2030.
- Despite ISRO’s impressive capabilities, India’s share is estimated at $7 billion (just 2% of the global market).
- It covers broadband and Direct-to-Home television (accounting for two-thirds of the share), satellite imagery and navigation.
How ISRO can benefit commercially
Launch multiple satellites
- Many private companies are developing satellites that they need for their operations, but most cannot afford to launch these independently.
- So they need to take help of missions from agencies like Isro that have launch facilities.
- ISRO’s ability to launch multiple satellites in a single mission has improved its standing significantly in the global market.
- The need for launches is growing exponentially worldwide.
- New companies are planning to launch entire commercial constellations [groups] of satellites, where a single company might need to launch between 24 to 648 satellites.
- The cost factor, remains a significant aspect of India’s space program.
- ISRO has a proven track record in launching small satellites with the success of the PSLV.
- The development of the SSLV will give India a further boost in this segment. SSLV will offer an even more cost-effective option than the existing PSLV.
- Another thing that makes India an attractive proposition is the frequency of its launches and its ability to meet deadlines.
- So far it has been able to meet the time requirements of all the customers
- India has been launching heavy satellites on its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) but so far it has only been used for domestic satellites.
- In recent months, there have been queries from foreign companies for launches on the GSLV.
- If India can successfully start taking more heavy satellites to space, it could significantly improve its position in a market that’s worth billions of dollars.
Section : Science & Tech