Intro: ISRO successfully launched PSLV-C28 rocket carrying five British satellites at one go from Sriharikota on July 10. PSLV with a lift off weight of 320 tonne made a history by launching a luggage with a total weight of 1,440 kg.
In a major boost to the Indian space programme and marking a new high for India’s commercial launch capability, the July 10 mission of India’s four stage, reliable space workhorse, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) powered by alternative liquid and solid fuel driven stages, displayed its awesome prowess by successfully putting five British satellites into their intended orbit in one go. In less than 20 minutes after its smooth, majestic take off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), the Indian spaceport on the eastern coast of the country, the 44.4 metre tall augmented version of PSLV with a lift off weight of 320 tonne made a history by launching a luggage with a total weight of 1,440 kg. This fifth full-fledged commercial mission of PSLV, which continues to attract international customers on account of its reliable track record in launching satellites at an affordable price, was accomplished under an agreement that DMC International Imaging had entered into with the Antrix Corp, the commercial arm of the Indian space programme. While the three DMC optical earth imaging satellites—each weighing 447 kg were launched as primary payloads, two other British satellites, CBNT-1 weighing 91 kg and De-Orbit Sail weighing 7 kg—were launched as piggy back payloads. Moments after the launch, a visibly delighted AS Kiran Kumar, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said, “It is a successful mission which has put five of the satellites of our customers into the orbit”.
Prior to this mission, PSLV had orbited 40 satellites belonging to 19 countries of the world on commercial terms. The excellent reliability of PSLV is proven by the fact that out of the 30 missions accomplished so far, it had suffered just a solitary partial failure. In fact, the July 10 commercial mission of PSLV was particularly challenging for which Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had specially designed a circular launch adapter and triangular deck so as to accommodate three metre high satellites into the existing payload structure of the launch vehicle. The three DMC satellites built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) is designed to address the need for simultaneous high spatial resolution and high temporal resolution optical earth observation.
Meanwhile, Antrix Corporation has signed service contracts for launching 28 satellites of the international customers belonging to various countries over the next two years by means of PSLV. During 2014-15, Antrix earned revenue of Rs 18, 500 million by marketing Indian space products and services to the global cutomers. In the years ahead, Antrix is looking at boosting its revenue by expanding the range of the services and products offered by it along with a strategy to expand its geographical footprint. Antrix also hopes to make it big in the global market for launching satellites once India’s cryogenic fuel driven, GSLV-MkII and GSLV-MkIII vehicles, attain operational status. As it is, Indian space programme described as a success story on a shoestring budget has always been motivated by the “Make in India” philosophy.
Interestingly, PSLV commercial missions have successfully launched the satellite payloads of customers from countries such as Algeria, Italy, Israel, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Indonesia, Canada, Singapore, Japan and South Korea.
To give a major thrust to India’s space business strategy, ISRO should initiate the process of setting up India’s second launch centre. For an expanding launch service business underpins the need for a minimum of two launch centres. It also makes for a strategic sense to operate more than one launch centre. On another front, ISRO should also try to leverage the potentials of the policy of turning India into a global industrial hub to create a resurgent space industrial complex capable of meeting not only Indian requirements for satellites and launch vehicles but also exporting Indian space expertise, hardware, services with a focus on supporting the in-orbit delivery of custom built spacecraft for the global customers.In scaling new heights of glory in the race for final frontiers, ISRO is all poised to reinforce its leadership position in the conquest of outer space.
Radhakrishna Rao (The writer is a freelance columnist
who writes on science tech and defence related issues)