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Saturday, Sep 17, 2005
Science & Technology
Industry & Economy - Science & Technology
ISRO-Boeing plan to build 2-tonne satellites dropped
Bangalore , Sept 16
THE ISRO-Boeing Satellite Systems dream plan to jointly make two-tonne communications satellites has more or less been dropped.
Barely a few months after the two announced in June 2004 their intent to collaborate and tap the multibillion-dollar global satellite market, Boeing, in an "informal communication", told ISRO that it had shifted its business plan towards making larger four-tonne satellites.
ISRO's current expertise is in two-tonne and three-tonne satellites.
Boeing has indicated it was not interested in these small-to-medium size satellites.
Boeing, which apparently felt frustrated by long and complex US procedures, said that it had spent enough time and resources on the exercise and could not follow it up any more, a senior official in the Department of Space told Business Line.
As there was no concrete pact, there was no question of its being called off; "it just didn't materialise."
Today, the ISRO Chairman, Mr G. Madhavan Nair, was quoted by news agency reports as confirming the development. "They (Boeing) are not doing small satellite business anymore; they have recast their business plans. So, it (the ISRO-Boeing collaboration) is not going forward at this moment."
(ISRO had signed an MoU with European agency, EADS Astrium, on similar lines in June this year.
Senior officials said that this association was shaping up well, but did not spell out details.)
The blame is mostly on the extremely long and complex US Government procedures even to reach the stage of TAAs (technology assistance agreements). Hence, this should not rule out collaboration in the future, they said.
Mr Kenneth I. Juster, US Under Secretary of Commerce, first announced the ISRO-Boeing intent during an Indo-US space conference in June 2004.
He said that a few months earlier, the US Administration had given Boeing the licence to open dialogue with ISRO - for long on the US `entity' or trading black list.
However, there apparently was not a single meeting between the two, nor any concrete proposals, leave alone any agreement, on the collaboration.
A tentative proposal was that ISRO would make and assemble the satellite frames at its facilities in Bangalore; these would be fitted with Boeing transponders or payloads and scientific instruments. Boeing would market them to user agencies.
The national space agency, which has perfected its satellite making technology, has hopes of selling them in the regional market for broadcast and telecom uses. Each two-tonne satellite costs $50-60 million.
In the mid-90s, ISRO was in talks with another US satellite major, Lockheed Martin, for a similar arrangement but the plan went bust after the Pokhran nuclear tests and the US sanctions that followed in 1998.
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