May 13, 2011

ISRO to launch French satellite in 2012

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Continuing its programme of commercial launch of foreign satellites, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has lined up launch of an image capturing satellite of France next year, according to Parivakkam Subramaniam Veeraraghavan, director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), a unit of ISRO.

“Because of our cost effective technology, many developed nations, including France and the US are willing to launch their satellites with our system. Many smaller and mini satellite launching programmes on commercial basis are in offing,” Veeraraghavan said while attending the National Technology Day seminar organised by National Aluminum Company (Nalco) here yesterday.

The French satellite SPOT (Satellite Pour l’observation de la Terre) is a high-resolution, optical imaging, earth observation satellite system. Currently SPOT 5 is working in the space and is expected to be withdrawn by the end of 2013. India will launch the SPOT 6 satellite, which will provide continuous high definition images of earth.

Due to the cost effectiveness of India-made PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) and GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicles), many countries prefer India to launch their satellites. Recently ISRO successfully placed Singapore’s first experimental satellite in space. India has so far launched 27 foreign satellites and 60 India-made satellites.

Currently, it costs $25,000 per kg to launch a satellite. The satellites can weigh 500 to 5,000 kg. Sometimes mini-satellites weighing 15-20 kg are bundled with the rocket and are placed in desired orbits.

However, profit realisation from satellite launch is currently lower because of high cost of fuel and one-time use of the rockets. Veeraraghvan said, ISRO is working on a project to develop reusable satellite launcher.

“The reusable spacecraft would minimise the launching cost by 90 percent. We have set 2030 as deadline to reach this goal,” he said.

In next five years, ISRO has plans to launch one ASTROSAT, which is a low cost version of Hubble Telescope, one GPS navigation satellite and a special satellite that can provide Internet services, informed the VSSC director.