India to soon look for contracts to launch heavy satellites: ISRO chief

By Venkatachari Jagannathan, Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh), Jan 5 : The Indian space agency will confidently look for heavy satellite carriage contracts from foreign parties after it successfully launches one more Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) rocket, its chief said Sunday.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief K. Radhakrishnan also said the space agency is working with its American counterpart for development of a satellite.

The ISRO Sunday successfully launched a GSLV rocket with indigenous cryogenic engine. The rocket placed communication satellite GSAT-14 precisely in the intended orbit.

"(After) Flying one more GSLV, we will be in a position to declare the rocket as commercially operational," Radhakrishnan told reporters after the launch.

He said communication satellites are of various tonnage and ISRO's GSLV rocket can carry up to two tonnes.

According to Radhakrishnan, there are niche satellites weighing around two tonnes.

He said in another 12 months, the next GSLV rocket will be ready for a mission.

Adding to that, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre director S. Ramakrishnan said the GSLV rocket has attained maturity level.

With one more mission, GSLV will be as reliable as ISRO's other rocket - the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), Ramakrishnan said.

For ISRO to bag commercial launch contracts, the costs are in its favour. Radhakrishnan told IANS Saturday that the country pays around $85-90 million or around Rs.500 crore as launch fee for sending up a 3.5 tonne communication satellite whereas the GSLV rocket costs around Rs.220 crore and the GSAT-14 that went up Sunday evening costs around Rs.145 crore.

The ISRO can send smaller communication satellites - weighing around two tonnes - till such time it gets ready an advanced GSLV variant that can lug satellites weighing around four tonnes.

Radhakrishnan said ISRO has lined up several satellite launches for the current GSLV rocket version.

He said GSLV will be used to launch satellites GSAT-6, 7A, 9, GISAT and Chandrayaan-2/moon mission.

Radhakrishnan said GSLV-Mark III - the advanced version - is being developed and an experimental mission will be in April this year. The rocket will have a passive cryogenic stage/engine. The main purpose of the mission is to study the aerodynamics and stability of the rocket.

He said the cryogenic engine for the next GSLV version will take around three years for being flight ready.

According to him, the next fiscal (April 2014-March 2015) would see ISRO launching three IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System) satellites, taking the total to four and all being ready for usage.

Not agreeing with a view on the slow down in ISRO's commercial launches, Radhakrishnan said the agency will be launching French satellite SPOT-7 along with four small satellites using a PSLV.

He said ISRO will also be launching a 800-kg German satellite EnMAP (Environmental Mapping and Analysis Programme), three British satellites each weighing around 300 kg and also a set of Canadian satellites.

According to V.S. Hegde, chairman and managing director at Antrix Corporation, the company clocked a revenue of Rs.1,300 crore in 2012-13 and expects 15 percent growth in 2013-14.

--IANS (Posted on 05-01-2014)

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