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ISRO to boost satellite launch market

business Updated: Jan 29, 2008 18:11 IST
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The launch of Israeli satellite Tecsar by an Indian rocket has boosted the morale of Antrix Corp Ltd, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which now plans to market this service more aggressively.

"The latest launch reinforces the confidence that customers have in India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)," KR Sridhara Murthi, executive director of the Rs 6.6-billion ($167 million) Antrix, told IANS.

Antrix markets satellite images, satellite transponders and rocket launch services.

"The rocket has proved its capability several times in carrying out launches in different orbits and also through multiple launches," Murthi added.

Standing 44-metre tall and weighing around 290 tonnes when fully loaded and around 230 tonnes without its six strap-on motors, the rocket can sling satellites in different orbits that include sun synchronous orbit (SSO), low earth orbit (LEO) and geo transfer orbit (GTO).

The rocket can carry satellites weighing 100 kg to 2.5 tonnes for lower orbits and 1.5 tonne for GTO.

However, when it comes to commercial payloads, PSLV gets luggage that weighs less than 500 kg.

While Tecsar weighed 300 kg, Italian satellite Agile that ISRO launched last April weighed 352 kg. The other third party satellites ISRO launched earlier weighed less than these two.

Asked about the market for launching satellites up to 500 kg, Murthi said the number of launches per year will be around six to eight and the revenue would be between $100 million and $150 million.

According to him, more satellites weighing 300-600 kg are being built now, which provides hope for more revenue from launches.

The launch fee would vary between $10,000 and $15,000 per kg, he said.

However, competition is also on the rise. Apart from established players like Russia, China, Japan and the US, Murthi said, the American private sector is also getting into the launch market.

The presence of India would result in the launch prices going down, he added.

Antrix hopes to bag around three commercial launch contracts for PSLV in 2009.

To be a major player in the launch market, Antrix is also planning a slew of measures. These include a three-stage PSLV to ferry 500 kg satellites for low earth orbit, a new 229-tonne "core alone" configuration that can carry 1,100 kg satellites into SSO, and a vehicle to carry 1,900 kg satellites in SSO by increasing the fuel in stage two and improving the thrust power.

"We can also look at the potential of our other rocket, Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV), only in its Mark III version," Murthi said.

Meanwhile, Antrix is expected close this fiscal with a turnover of Rs 7.5 billion ($190 million).

"Last year our turnover was Rs 6.6 billion and the net profit was Rs 1.05 billion. Forty-eight per cent of our revenue came from transponder leasing, 18 per cent from launches and ground station services, eight per cent from selling remote sensing data and the balance from making satellites," he said.