A technology safeguards agreement (TSA) signed with the US last week will open up fresh opportunities for India in the field of space launches, say officials.
The agreement, signed July 20 in New Delhi, will facilitate the launch of non-commercial US satellites and satellites with US components on Indian launch vehicles.
"It will open up more satellite launch opportunities for India," said K.R. Sridhara Murthi, executive director of Antrix Corp, the Rs.1,000-crore ($200 million) commercial and marketing arm of the country's space agency, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
"Earlier, satellites built with US-made components were not available for Indian launch vehicles," Murthi told IANS from Bangalore on phone.
At present, the total market for non-commercial launches is estimated to be around 40 satellites a year, of which India's share is very small. However, with the TSA agreement, India is poised to make a larger penetration into the market, said ISRO officials.
Generally, non-commercial satellites are lightweight and may not fetch big revenues for a rocket launch agency as the satellite transport fee depends on its weight and the orbit into which it has to be launched.
ISRO's advantage is that it is one of the few space agencies in the world that can sling a light satellite into low orbit.
Though the deal will give advantage to the country in the non-commercial satellite field, India is still prohibited from launching US satellites or using US-made satellite components in the heavy commercial satellite segment.
New Delhi has to sign a commercial space launch agreement (CSLA) with Washington for the restrictions to get eased.
However, ISRO's cooperation with other countries is steadily improving, said Murthi.
The space agency is now gearing up to launch an Algerian satellite Alsat by the year-end with its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
"Owned by the Algerian Space Agency, the satellite is built by a French company with components of US origin," Murthi said.
That apart, ISRO will also launch Megha Tropiques, an Indo-French joint satellite mission for studying tropical atmosphere and climate issues like monsoon, cyclones and others.
The satellite will have an Italian made atmospheric sounder called ROSA.
Apart from Alsat and Megha Tropiques, ISRO will also launch small satellites from Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore and Canada.
Another major launch mission of the agency for the current year is the launch of GSLV-D3 (geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle) that will carry communication satellite GSAT-4.
GSLV-D3 will use an indigenous cryogenic engine that will place the satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO), Murthi said.
After that, GSLV-F06 carrying INSAT-3D will be launched.