PSLV launch gives India commercial edge - by Stephen David Back   Home  
F or the second time in two years, India has successfully launched a commercial rocket, the indigenous Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from Sriharikota off the Andhra Pradesh coast at 10.23 am today. Top scientists monitoring the launch -- of PSLV-3C as the launch vehicle is known -- at the Bangalore headquarters of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said the $30 million rocket also placed into polar orbit three satellites -- India's Terrestrial Experimental Satellite (TES), Belgium's PROBA and German Space agency DLR's BIRD.

India's first commercial rocket launch was on May 26, 1999, when the 294-ton PSLV-2 carried a Korean and German satellite into orbit from the Sriharikota high range, an island in the Bay of Bengal, about 70 km from Chennai.

ISRO chairman K. Kasturirangan, keen to transfer the space technology to the private sector, points out PSLV is integral to India's commercial satellite launch programmes which is capable of placing satellites of 1200-kg class into as high as 820 km high polar sun-synchronous orbits.

"We always had the capacity to enter into the lucrative satellite delivery business," former ISRO chairman U.R. Rao told TheNewspaperToday. "Many countries are developing low-cost launch systems but we have the advantages of vast technical and scientific manpower and quality at an affordable cost."

India's launch charges could be about twenty five per cent cheaper than other countries such as the US, China and Russia. While the PSLV is meant to carry a 1.2 ton payload, the geo-stationary satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) is meant to take larger payloads into space such as communication and broadcasting satellites.

After watching the successful blast off from Sriharikota two years ago Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had remarked that many more foreign satellites would be launched from the Indian soil. "It is our determination to make India a space power in the next century. In future, many more foreign satellites can be launched," a beaming Vajpayee had pointed out.

An average PSLV costs about Rs 70 crore. ISRO's commercial Antrix Corporation (it did Rs 60 crore business last year) takes care of the launch business and it is likely to play a major role in the planned privatisation of space technology in India.

Antrix, while playing a major role in exporting high-quality space products to leading multinationals, is also playing a key role in ensuring that India can take a major share of the $60 billion international market for launchers. The international space market itself is worth $100 billion a year -- Rs 4,20,000 crore -- and India is expected to have a share of this huge cake
Published in TNTNews