Sunday, June 24, 2012

ISRO to Privatize PSLV & Satellite Production

ISRO is looking to spin off the production of PSLV rockets and satellites to private sector partners:

New Delhi: As it prepares for Moon and Mars missions, ISRO is planning to hive off production of communication satellites and polar satellite launch vehicles (PSLV) to the industry.

The space agency is keen to focus on unique science projects, develop remote sensing satellites and do more R&D instead of engaging in the repetitive exercise of building communication satellites and launch vehicles.

"We want to explore the possibility of 'producing' PSLV and communication satellites through the industry," K Radhakrishnan, Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) told PTI in an interview here.

The ISRO and its commercial arm Antrix Corporation have called for a meeting with the industry in September in Bangalore for a dialogue on the proposal and identify different work models.

"We want to find out what models could work out and evolve a plan. There is lot of repetition in building communication satellites," he said.
If satellite and PSLV production can be spun off to private sector partners, then conceivably likewise so could launch operations. We could have our own Indian private sector launch companies, like United Launch Alliance, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences in the United States. I think that following the great success of SpaceX's COTS2 mission to the International Space Station, ISRO has now seen the handwriting on the wall, and realized that privatization could bring in new cost efficiencies and better leverage Indian skills in space technology to market them to the rest of the world. This will result in a faster evolution of Indian space capabilities, and faster gains in Indian access to space.

As a Japanese expert has pointed out in recent comments, one of the limitations for other countries in imitating the US move to privatize space launch services, is in having a domestic demand for space launch services strong enough to support a commercial space launch industry. Hopefully, India's fast-growing space sector will be enough to provide a sustainable market.


Arvind said...

They are delusional. ISRO has no role in the liberalization of the economy. If the government removes the hurdles, there will be private players who enter the market immediately. And they won't need the Russian technology from ISRO.

san said...


The main thing should be the advancement of Indian access to space. This means not just expansion of technological capabilities, but also cost reduction to make capabilities more economical. We can also add indigenization, so that capabilities can be sustained independent of sanctions, embargos and cutoffs.

PSLV is a mature system, with 20+ launches to its name. So there's no point in ISRO continuing to do the same old thing, when it can hand off PSLV to the private sector, who can probably streamline operations, cut back on costs, etc, to offer more bang for the buck.

You justifiably point out that foreign providers can offer up their technologies to Indian companies, as superior alternatives to ISRO's Russian-acquired tech. I have nothing against that - it's just that other countries tend to jealously guard their hi-tech secrets rather than parting with them so easily. If an Indian company can get access to foreign technology at good cost, then I'm in favor of it. But if technology from abroad is being denied, or if it won't come at an affordable price, and if ISRO can offer a viable or more affordable alternative, then at least that option is there.

I agree that a good solution-provider should be technologically agnostic, and open-minded about what approach can be used to achieve the goal. Tata was able to develop its Nano with cooperation from foreign partners, but in the sensitive field of aerospace such cooperation maybe not always be available. Whatever moves us forward the fastest, and gets us around the bottlenecks most efficiently.

Arvind said...

I did not mean that foreign firms would transfer technology to Indian firms. What I meant was that private firms run by Indians would develop their own technology which would be better than ISRO's Russian technology.