(K. Raghu, Bangalore): Antrix Corp. Ltd, the commercial arm of India’s space agency, has won a pair of deals from Algeria and Italy to launch earth observation satellites next year on the polar satellite launch vehicle, or PSLV, its workhorse rocket.
The contract awarded by the Algerian space agency to launch Alsat-2A, a 200kg remote sensing satellite, is the first won by Antrix from an African nation. The Algerian agency has the option to launch a second such satellite. For the Italian space agency Agenzia Spaziale Italiana, Antrix will launch a satellite named IMSAT, which will be the second Italian satellite to be boosted into space by the Indian Space Research Organisation, or Isro, which in April 2007 launched Agile, a 352kg scientific satellite.
The Algerian and Italian satellites, besides a 100kg satellite for Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and Cubesat, a three-satellite package from the Netherlands, would ride piggyback on heavier Indian satellites, said K.R. Sridhara Murthi, managing director of Antrix. He didn’t disclose financial details.
Antrix is also in talks with space agencies of South Africa and Nigeria to carry out similar launches, Murthi said. “We are also looking at opportunities bigger than that—remote sensing satellites, where payloads (are) of 800kg or even higher.”
Isro offers the home-grown PSLV to carry satellites of up to 1,700kg into low-earth orbit at a cost that’s nearly 30% cheaper than that charged by firms such as International Launch Services, owned by Space Transport Inc. and two Russian organizations, Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and RSC Energia. Low-earth orbit is the region above earth between 200km and 2,000km, ideal to place earth observation or remote sensing satellites.
India is still a fledgling competitor in the global satellite manufacturing and launch industry, which is expected to grow to $145 billion (Rs6.3 trillion) over 10 years to 2016, from $116 billion in the 10 years to 2006, according to Paris-based research firm Euroconsult.
“(Isro’s) benchmark is with international specifications on quality, reliability and credibility of the systems. And then, you are also cost competitive,” said K. Kasturirangan, director of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, a think tank in Bangalore. “The opportunity is just growing.”