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India's Space agency ISRO to share tech with private firms
01-07-2016

Private firms can tap the Indian and global market opportunity in small and mini satellites


Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has floated a tender, asking private firms to manufacture earth observation and communication satellites, to meet its demand for 70 satellites over five years.

The agency needs to launch a satellite every month to meet the growing need for DTH transponders, mapping applications for urban and disaster planning and communication services.

"We have floated an expression of interest for end-to-end manufacture of two satellites," M Annadurai, director of the ISRO satellite center, told Business Standard soon after the successful launch of 20 satellites on a PSLV rocket.

Already, Bharat Electronics Ltd, the public sector Defence electronics firm, is setting up a Rs 3 billion satellite factory in Bangalore after anticipating demand to grow in this space.

Satellite manufacturing is a high-precision activity. ISRO had mastered the technology to assemble complex earth observation, navigation and communication satellites that are ready to be shipped to launch pads, in India and Kourou (space pad of ArianeSpace, the European space agency).

A decade ago, ISRO had attempted to open satellite-making to local private firms but aborted it due to mutual concerns over investments in meeting the space agency's small requirement.

This time, the space body has committed to transfer technology. The partners can then build satellites for India's needs, as well as exploit emerging opportunity, from global customers.

"We need supply chain capacity and an industry trying to build more (satellites and rockets). That means we have to give emphasis to the industry," according to ISRO Chairman A S Kiran Kumar

Research and Markets estimated in May that the global opportunity for small and mini satellites would grow nearly one-and-a-half times to $5.32 billion by 2021. In 2016, the market was estimated to be $2.22 billion.

The rapid growth is due to the emergence of private firms in the US who are looking at opportunities to build and deliver satellite-based services, in areas such as remote sensing and navigation, disaster management, intelligence gathering and providing high speed internet services. Some of the firms such as One Web, Google-owned Terra Bella and former NASA employee owned Planet Labs, Spire Global, Space X and Millennium Space Systems have global ambitions.

For ISRO, a few firms based in Silicon Valley, such as Planet Labs, Google's Terra Bella and Spire Global, are customers using the PSLV rocket to hurl satellites into space. Now, ISRO is also looking to expand the relationship with these and other firms to make satellites locally in India and launch them from Indian soil.

In parallel, ISRO is expecting a private consortium of firms including HAL, Godrej and L&T to build the PSLV rocket and launch it by 2020. This would allow ISRO to bring down the PSLV launch to every three weeks from the existing norm of once in two months.

Based on Business Standard story



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