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ISRO eyes more satellite launches from Europe, US

BANGALORE (PTI): Indian Space Research Organisation has reached an understanding with Arianespace under which the European space consortium would scout for small satellites in Europe to be launched by ISRO.

ISRO is a long-time customer of the European aerospace giant, which has launched 12 Indian satellites from 1988 to 2007. Another heavy Indian satellite in the present series is expected to be launched by Arianespace, but the date has not yet been finalised, ISRO Chairman, G Madhavan Nair said.

Asked if the association with Arianespace would come to an end after the next launch, he said, "No, actually, we are trying to develop it further. They are good for heavy-lift launches. Whenever we have payloads of more than four tonnes, we may have to depend on them".

At the same time, Nair said ISRO is trying to make use of Arianespace to get launch opportunities from Europe.

"Arianspace will work like a collaborative agency with us in Europe. It is in dialogue with many institutions in Europe. We may get more launch opportunities through them. So, partnership with Arianespace will be strengthened", Nair told PTI.

"They are not interested in small satellites so they will deflect it to us," he added.

In addition, Nair said ISRO expects more launch opportunities from the US and Europe following the recent technology safeguards agreement (TSA) with America.

"Technology safeguards agreement talks about spacecraft launch of either US origin or from the components which are used in the spacecraft by Europeans and others. So, they will get clearance for launching from (India's) GSLV and so on", Nair said.

Before TSA with the US getting a clearance of this kind was very laborious and time-consuming, he said, adding that with this agreement, it will be easier for the countries to come to us. So that may improve our launch frequency and launch contracts for outside users.

Following the TSA, ISRO has now lined up for launch a satellite built by Europeans for Algeria. "So that one (Algerian satellite) was waiting for such a clearance. And it has been cleared and taken up for launch. Its a fairly large contract. The satellite weighs about 200 kg."

Nair said ISRO has lined up launch of about half-a-dozen foreign satellites in the coming year, including those from France, Algeria, Germany, Canada and Indonesia.

ISRO's marketing arm, Antrix Corporation, which clocked revenues of over Rs 1,000 crore in 2008-09, is aiming at a respectable growth of 25-30 per cent in the current fiscal.

He said some overseas players have approached ISRO to procure satellite sub-systems, some propulsion systems and wheels, among others. ISRO is also looking at increasing sales of images taken from its earth observation satellites, Nair, also Secretary in the Department of Space, added.

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