India's space agency has in its pipeline eight foreign satellites for launch and is scouting to acquire such spacecraft from abroad to expand capacity in the field of communication transponder back home.
"Today, we have eight (foreign) satellites to be launched. This will be launched over the next two-three years", Managing Director of Antrix Corporation, marketing arm of Bangalore headquartered Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), K R Sridhara Murthi, said.
These are a mix of small and bigger satellites, he said but declined to elaborate, noting that the space agency is yet to formally ink some of these contracts. But one foreign satellite that is being readied for launch is a 150-kg one from Algeria, which is slated to be launched by home-grown Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle as a piggyback payload likely in April next year. Sridhara Murthi said ISRO is looking for opportunities to acquire foreign satellites.
In fact, it, along with its global partners, recently unsuccessfully bid to acquire a satellite, which was put up for auctioning by a company facing bankruptcy, in the United States. Intelsat won the bid with a price of USD 210 million.ISRO was ready to shell out USD 100 million for part of the capacity that it intended to use, Sridhara Murthi said.
ISRO's bold move is a sign of its growing confidence, he said. ISRO has also started integrating Hylas spacecraft, a contract it jointly bagged with EADS-Astrium, and it would be delivered to the customer, UK-based Avanti Screenmedia, in June.
Under the contract, EADS-Astrium is the prime contractor in charge of overall programme management and would build the communications payload, while Antrix/ISRO would build the satellite with a lift-off mass of around 2.5 tonnes and power of 3.2 KW.
This year we are producing a very sophisticated high definition television satellite (Hylas) probably for the first time in the world", he said. ISRO is looking to further scale up the participation of industries in space projects and even mulling to outsource some research and development tasks to them.
"Nearly 400 industries take part in space programme today", he said, noting for example that industries now undertake 70 per cent of work on developing launch vehicles (rockets).
"So, when (Indian) rocket is a success, it's not merely ISRO which has to take credit, it is also a large number of industries which have to take credit", Sridhara
Murthi said. In addition, as of March this year, ISRO had transferred 289 technologies to modern industries for commercialisation and provided 270 technical consultancies in different disciplines of space technology.
ISRO endeavours to develop technologies with industries. "In the years to come, even for R & D tasks, ISRO will depend more and more on industries". Sridhara Murthi also spoke about the profitability of space business. Antix today has an annual revenue of over Rs 1,000 crore.
"Each satellite can pay for itself including the cost of launching. If you take a communication satellite, probably we spend about Rs 300 crore to launch one satellite. But, typically, this can pay back Rs 800 crore to Rs 1,000 crore over a period of its life".
"If we look at the value chain of space activities, if we invest one rupee in space, there is ten rupee business on ground", he said.