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Shooting for the Stars: ISRO's Commercial Arm Bags Contracts to Launch 4 Foreign Satellites

The PSLV-C49 launch comes as ISRO's first mission in 2020.  (Image Credit: ISRO)

The PSLV-C49 launch comes as ISRO's first mission in 2020. (Image Credit: ISRO)

NewSpace India Limited has announced that it is all set to own and operate space assets such as satellites and launch vehicles on a commercial basis.

The commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced on Friday that it is all set to own and operate space assets such as satellites and launch vehicles on a pecuniary basis. NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), a central public sector enterprise, is in advance discussions with the department of space to take ownership of two communication satellites and has also bagged four contracts to provide launch vehicles in the near future.

Speaking to CNN-News18, G Narayanan, chairman and managing director of NSIL, said that the new mandate by the government of India through its space sector reforms has made it easier for the organisation to establish itself as a major space service provider. “We expect that before the end of the coming financial year, we will have two satellites in our control and we will be able to put them in space and start operating. Currently, one of the satellites we are working on is a DTH, 24 Ku band transponder satellite, and another for broadband services,” he said.

NSIL, which was set up in March 2019 with a paid capital of Rs 10 crore, is also betting big on providing launch vehicles for satellites and rockets, not just for ISRO but also for private players. “Of the dedicated launches that we have bagged, those are not from ISRO; they are all from foreign international customers. Once international customers come then we see no reason why Indian companies will not come,” Narayanan added.

Even though it is in a nascent stage, the company is looking at a revenue target of Rs 400 crore for the year 2021 and is expecting investment to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore every year for the next five years. The idea of opening up the space sector to private companies will help NSIL become a key player in space-based services, not just in India but in global markets as well, experts say.​

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As far as timelines are concerned, NSIL plans to launch two of the satellites in 2022 and another two in 2023. Of the four launches, three will be on the polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) and another on a small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV). There is no disclosure yet on which countries these satellites belong to.

NSIL also announced that it is looking at manufacturing the entire PSLV by itself and is also reaching out to Indian industries to partner with for this. A request for proposal (RFP) for identifying an industry partner has already been issued.

“The high cost and capital intensive facilities for testing and qualifying for space research were a deterrent for private players, but now with the opening up of facilities at ISRO at a reasonable cost and discussions on the interim mechanism till the launch of IN-SPACe will help the participation of private players in the space sector, so several rocket motors and launchers by smaller companies are being tested at ISRO,” Narayanan said about the entry of private players’ participation in the space sector.

first published:March 12, 2021, 18:47 IST