Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Jan 10, 2006
Industry & Economy
Science & Technology
Doing business with US `much easier' for ISRO now
Mr G. Madhavan Nair
Bangalore , Jan. 9
THE recent thaw in US attitude towards its partial entity Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) may be having its commercial spin-offs.
The gradual removal of ISRO centres on the US blacklist in recent years has made business with US industries that much easier, according to ISRO Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space, Mr G. Madhavan Nair.
As a fallout of the embargoes, "We had switched over to other suppliers and now we have to get back and re-establish our contacts with old (US) vendors," he said in an interview to Business Line.
As to the reason for the thaw, Mr Nair said, "My personal opinion is that they have recognised our strength in space. That is one reason why they are trying to relax conditions on embargoes and trying to make their industries work with us. They see the market potential."
This has also brightened the prospects of ISRO emerging as an international space transportation agency. The US is "trying to allow satellite manufacturers to use Indian launchers. If that comes, we stand a much better chance" in the $1.5-billion launchers market dominated by Europe's Arianespace and US industry.
Besides, Europeans, the other competitors, have been moving to the higher end of four to six-tonne class of launchers. ISRO can expect some contracts for the growing two-tonne satellites as it has an understanding with Arianespace.
Its first full commercial launch, worth around $10 million, for an Italian-made satellite Agile is coming up in a few months.
Revenues: The big money would, of course, be from launches - of the order of $15 million per PSLV and $30 million per GSLV launch. Even one launch in two years to start with would make a significant growth.
Transponder lease on the latest Insat 4A would generate Rs 40 crore revenue every year for the next 10-12 years, mainly from Tata Sky DTH venture. Such leases account for one-third or Rs 120 crore of the present revenue of its commercial entity Antrix Corporation. The amount was set to increase considering the rate at which broadcast channels have been multiplying.
Of the 30 high-powered Ku band transponders in use, six have been hired from NSS mainly for Doordarshan's needs. "By the end of this year, we will be meeting all the requirements. Doordarshan will be shifted to our system when Insat 4B is launched."
Mr Nair said he expected sale of remote-sensing data to at least double soon; two advanced offers coming up were Cartosat - 2 and Resourcesat.
Moon as human base?
THE national space agency is already looking beyond its lunar orbiting mission slate for early 2008.
Chandrayaan-1, the Rs 400-crore two-year orbiting mission, is now its biggest engagement. "What we are asking is whether Moon can be a base. It is a big challenge," said the ISRO Chairman, Mr G. Madhavan Nair. "Suppose this mission comes out with some good results about minerals, there will be questions to be answered, such as how to exploit them and whether Moon can be a human base. We are putting together study teams and asking people to come out with proposals."
Chandrayaan-1 would also see a rare US scientific partnership: two of its four piggyback payloads are to be from the US. The MINISAR payload would look for moisture on the lunar surface. There was greater enthusiasm about a moon mineral search experiment, which would complement ISRO's own mineral exploration experiment.
"We have cleared the US payloads from our side. They have to get a similar clearance from their side. Indications are that it will be coming through soon," he said. A European and a Bulgarian experiment are also being put on the mission.
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