The Indian Space Research Organisation will launch four foreign satellites this year as it seeks to make further inroads into the international satellite-building and launch services market in 2009.
Two weeks ago, communication satellite, W2M, built by ISRO on a commercial basis in partnership with EADS-Astrium of Europe, was successfully launched by the European Ariane-5 launch vehicle from the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou in French Guiana. Managing Director of Antrix Corporation Ltd, the commercial arm of Bangalore-headquartered ISRO, K R Sridhara Murthy, said the Indian space agency is gearing up to launch four satellites of Singapore, the Netherlands, Italy and Algeria. (These contracts were bagged by ISRO independently and not in partnership with EADS-Astrium).
'We have four commitments for Singapore, the Netherlands, Italy and Algeria. We want to complete it in 2009," he told PTI in an interview.
"It (the four spacecraft) is a mix of nano and small satellites". Contractual obligations bar ISRO from talking about specific launch price but Sridhara Murthy said that the space agency's charge per kg of satellite (to be launched) is around Euro 20,000 per kg, quite cheaper than prevailing International prices. But, he stressed that the launch price is guided by competition, market conditions and demand-supply scenario.
W2M project was undertaken in the context of an accord between Antrix, to jointly build and deliver the satellite to Eutelsat Communications, a global satellite communications provider based in Paris. Astrium had the responsibility for overall programme management and delivery of the communications payload and Antrix/ISRO provided the satellite and also performed W2M's integration and testing at ISRO's facilities here. W2M satellite, weighing 3,463 kg at lift-off, is the heaviest satellite built by ISRO and is capable of operating for over 15 years.
The satellite's solar panels generate a maximum of about 7000 Watts of power. Sridhara Murthy said Antrix and EADS/Astrium are now pursuing three-four satellite-building proposals, similar to their W2M venture.
"Discussions are at a reasonably good stage," he said. "We (Antrix and EADS/Astrium) are looking at various opportunities where people are trying to procure satellites (to be built) in the two to three tonne category which is our capability", he said. Sridhara Murthy said in a technologically evolving scenario, ISRO's effort is to make its satellites more power and weight efficient; and pack more payloads without increasing the weight of the satellite. He noted that while ISRO typically looked at solar panels of its satellites generating a maximum of five kilo watts or six kilo watts of power, in W2M it exceeded seven kilo watts.
Once GSLV-Mk III rocket is operational, ISRO's ability to address launch services market enhances considerably, Sridhara Murthy said.
ISRO officials said GSLV-Mk III is envisaged to launch four tonne satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit. Its first development flight is expected in 2009-10. Antrix posted sales of Rs 940 crore in 2007-08 and it is targeting Rs 900 crore to Rs 1,000 crore in the current financial year, he said adding it is unrealistic to aim too high a growth as there is a lot of gloom in the market.