There is a need to make space-based technologies available to the Indian industry to capitalize on their strengths so that the knowledge and technologies that are available with ISRO are exploited in a better way, highlights Rakesh S, Chairman & MD, Antrix.
As the commercial arm of ISRO, what is your outlook on the demand for space-based technologies in India and worldwide?
Antrix has the responsibility of leveraging on the technology and products of Indian space program to generate revenue for the government. If you look at the space scenario today, a lot of changes are happening. We are in the middle of a transformation in terms of technology and applications, and there is a growing demand of both in India and globally for space-based technologies. Antrix has a very important role to play in these times in making space-based technologies available to the Indian industry to capitalize on their strengths so that the knowledge and technologies that are available with ISRO are exploited in a better way — both to solve the needs of the country and create revenue for the government.
Today, we have a great opportunity for commercializing the technologies and monetizing it due to the developing market in India. Towards this, Antrix has embarked on an active interaction with ISRO to identify specific technologies, address some of the policies and bring market information to ISRO and Department of Space. The company has been engaging consultants to analyze the market for deep insight on the Indian market. The information gathered can then be used to develop products and services in future.
With a plethora of opportunities to commercialize and monetize technologies, does India have a strong ecosystem to support this?
This cannot be done by ISRO and Antrix alone. There is a need to have an industrial base. A good ecosystem building is an immediate priority for Antrix. Firstly, we need to make the technology available to the industry so that they can leverage on it and make them capable to build products. Secondly, the market that is evolving needs to be made available to the industry. The information we collect from this can be utilized appropriately to upraise the industry.
Which are the big revenue generator verticals of Antrix?
The main revenue earner for Antrix is the SatCom vertical (transponder provisioning services). However, our launch services is doing very good too, and seen a huge market growth. This has been taken up with ISRO to have some specific commercial offerings like a specific launch vehicle to address this market. Rather than being dependant on spare capacity that will be available in the national missions using PSLVs, etc., we need to have focused offerings for the market.
What has been driving the growth of ISRO’s launch services?
The fact that we are doing well explains that we are commercially very attractive to our customers. There are not too many players in the launch market. The requirement of the small satellite industry is burgeoning and that keeps us going. As said earlier, we need to have focused offerings to address this market in future.
Do you think ISRO’s plans for a small satellite launch vehicle will be commercially viable?
Antrix is working on this and right now the market looks positive. Given the track record and knowledge ISRO has, it seems it will be possible. Antrix is doing a detailed analysis of the market and the small satellite launch vehicle itself. This will help to determine if it is commercially viable and profitable in the future. Post that, the company will be embarking on it.
What is your take on the reusability concept of launch vehicles?
ISRO is working on the concept. There is a lot of hope that this technology will prove its worth in the near future and that it will bring in further commercial value to the propositions that Antrix is offering to the customers. It is still in the developmental phase and commercial application has to be worked out after due analysis.
What is the progress on the heavy lift launchers and has Antrix started marketing it?
ISRO has developed a new heavy-lift launcher. In the near future, it will have 4 tonnes and later on 6 tonnes launch capabilities that will meet future requirements of ISRO. Antrix is probing market opportunities and require a commercial launch for it. Unlike PSLVs, this will require a full launch vehicle being bought by a customer and for this the launch vehicle needs to be available to us. So right now, there is a lot of requirement for meeting the domestic demand itself. The company is in discussion with potential customers and seeing where in the next three to four years we can have a launch.
What is your take on the Space Activities Bill, 2017?
The policy has been a long-awaited one. I am happy it has come out now and we need to work closely with the private industry. It should be an enabler. There has been a lot of scepticism from the industry about the Act. But I would like to take this opportunity to say that the Act will have many clauses that is only to meet various eventualities that may come in such kind of business. Hopefully, in the near future we should be seeing the Act coming in.