After successful satellite launches over the past five decades, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has now set its sights on the next mission, to tap the growing international demand for products and services for outer space.

The Indian space agency wants to build on its growing reputation for low-cost yet effective satellite launching capabilities to become a key player in the global space arena. To boost its satellite launching credentials further, several big-bang activities are being planned by ISRO over the next 5 years. The organization is also working on a smaller rocket that can be assembled in 3 days, effectively giving it the capability to launch satellites every week.

The space agency is encouraging private players to form small consortiums to undertake satellite and rocket manufacturing work so that it can remain focused on research and development. It has issued a tender inviting the private industry for assembly, integration, and testing (AIT) of 30–35 satellites.

Increasing space activity globally is being shaped by nimble private players rather than government sponsored space programs. These players bring the twin advantage of speed and agility to a country’s space program by focusing on specific solutions and delivering them in a time-bound manner.

Given the opportunities, private players are eager to join the space race. In India, 33 private firms are currently trying to build capabilities to launch small satellites.

Another ISRO official stated that, it had tried this model on a pilot scale with two satellites. “Alpha Design Technologies was allowed to build satellites at our facilities. We did the hand holding on the first one and tried their staff. The second satellite was completely built by them at our facility,” he added. In the next step, the idea is to let the private industry build their own facilities after gaining enough expertise, the official added. The private sector already supplies majority of the subsystems in satellite manufacturing. Giving the reason for the push, he said in the next 3–4 years ISRO plans to launch 58 satellites. “Our in-house capacity is limited. So we are looking to offload 30-40 percent of the work to the private sector.”

To this end, ISRO has built a space technology park spread over 25 acres in Bengaluru where the entire range of facilities have been set up for use by the industry.

 Dr. M Annadurai

Director,

ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC)

“ISRO has issued a Request For Proposal (RFP) to the private industry to build 30–35 satellites over three years. Under this, 4–5 companies would be selected after evaluation and awarded parallel contracts. They would be responsible for the AIT of satellites at ISRO facilities. ISRO currently launches 3–4 launches per year but the demand is for 16–18 satellites. ISRO expects to get the responses to the RFP by December 5, complete selection of the companies by January 5 and sign contracts by February 5. The aim is to launch 3–4 satellites in 2018 and improve it further.”