With 103 satellites, ISRO’s showpiece launch may earn it massive satellite business
The Indian Space Research Organisation is galloping in the commercial satellite launch sector and is on its way to break a massive space record. ISRO’s trusted Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle platform will launch 100 foreign and three Indian satellites in a single launch this February. The launch will set the space agency apart from its competitors and strengthen ISRO’s image as a reliable satellite launch service
The Indian space agency will comfortably break the record previously held by the Russian Dnepr rocket–a transformed inter-continental ballistic missile–which launched 37 satellites into orbit in 2014.
ISRO’s commercial appeal has grown by leaps and bounds over the past five years. In that time, ISRO has sent an orbiter to Mars and prepared the second Chandrayaan-2 space probe due for launch next year.
The technological advancement shown by ISRO can be seen in the context of its past techno-commercial feats as well. Last year, ISRO launched satellites in two separate orbits in a single launch which was also another big achievement and one that very few competitors are capable of doing. The success of the launch will also raise the number of operational satellites in space by nearly 10 per cent. At present, there are about 1,100 operational satellites orbiting earth.
The PSLV-37 launch vehicle will carry the satellites to space next month. Till date, PSLV platforms have put 122 satellites in orbit out of which 43 are Indian satellites and the remaining 79 satellites were foreign cargo.
The Satellite Industry Association observed in a report in 2015 that the satellite manufacturing and services sector from 2014-15 grew by $16.6 billion to reach $127.4 billion. With few players in the market, each player, like ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix, aim to get as big a share of the pie as possible. From 2011 to August 2016 Antrix made a profit of ₹896 crore. At present PSLV launches are 5-6 a year. The space agency plans to up the annual launch count up to around 18 and that will substantially up its revenue.
Launches like the one scheduled in February are showpiece events for space scientists and the Indian space Industry. A successful launch will go a long way in attracting the sort of business to help ISRO and Antrix achieve its expansion target.