‘Indian commercial satellite launch market to rival that of Europe by 2020’

‘Indian commercial satellite launch market to rival that of Europe by 2020’

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Amaresh Kollipara, Earth2Orbit
Amaresh Kollipara
Founder and Managing Partner
Earth2Orbit

Earth2Orbit is India’s first private space endeavour. The new-generation company believes a robust government space programme has laid the foundation for the creation of future private space enterprise and aims to be a leader in this space. We catch up with Founder and Managing Partner, Amaresh Kollipara.

Tell us more about its mission and activities.

Earth2Orbit (E2O) is India’s first private space start-up. E2O is headquartered in Mumbai and has satellite offices in Bangalore, San Francisco and Vienna. We are working towards setting up a solid presence in Japan as well. Our business is divided into the following verticals:

  • International Launch Brokering
  • Earth Observation Data Products
  • Human Space Systems
  • Space Hardware
  • Market Studies and General Consulting

We are primarily focused on the first two verticals for the time being. Within the International Launch Brokering vertical, we are working with launch clients from around the world, including the United States, Japan, and Europe. We help these clients to negotiate and procure launch services through consulting and advisory services. Numerous topics are addressed during the process, including but not limited to contracting, technology vetting, financing, law and policy advisory and overall project management. As I am sure your readers know that India has several imaging satellites which serve as the basis for the second business vertical listed above.

How did this idea come about?

The founders of Earth2Orbit evaluated the business model and strategy back in 2007 and drafted a business plan. We believed then, as we continue to believe now, that there is a need for an international launch marketplace through which any satellite that needs a launch to space can obtain a launch in a straightforward manner, much like buying an airline ticket or shipping a package. Although the market is currently not there yet, we do believe that it will get there.

Earth2Orbit also offers geospatial services. Tell us more about that.

Earth2Orbit offers value-added earth observation data products from Indian remote sensing satellites in partnership with Antrix Corportation Ltd, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and National Remote Sensing Centre. The Earth2Orbit geospatial product suite finds diverse and broad-ranging applications in industries and government agencies across the spectrum, including homeland security, defence and intelligence, agriculture, real estate, transport, telecom, navigation, mining, oil and gas, energy, natural resource management, disaster management, insurance, tourism, mapping, federal-state-local government agencies, investment banks and forecast groups.

What is the kind of potential you see for Indian commercial satellite launch market?

One of the main ways for the PSLV to be more attractive is for there to be more launches. The market demand is sufficient for this.

The future prospects for the Indian commercial satellite launch market are extremely noteworthy. The PSLV is commonly regarded as one of the most reliable launch vehicles in the world. With over 20 consecutive successful launches, the PSLV represents an extremely viable commercial “work horse.” We foresee the commercial satellite launch market in India rivaling that of Europe by the end of the decade and that of the USA shortly thereafter. Cost, consistency, quality, technical expertise, stellar personnel, and other factors will help drive the Indian market forward.

How can PSLV be made more attractive to international satellite makers?

The PSLV is already very attractive to international satellite operators. We get contacted on a regular basis from operators around the world. One of the main ways for the PSLV to be more attractive is for there to be more launches per year. The market demand is sufficient for this. From the standpoint of US operators, if the export compliance issues that the US government has in place are eased, the PSLV would be a much more attractive launch option.

How many international satellite makers have expressed interest in using Indian launch vehicle?

Although we cannot comment on specific names, due to client confidentiality issues, we can safely say that many satellite operators in the US, Europe, and Japan have expressed considerable interest in the PSLV.

Have you clinched any deal with ISRO for your clients?

Yes.

ISRO has recently announced that is hiving off production of communication satellites and polar satellite launch vehicles to the industry. How do you see it impacting the Indian commercial satellite launch market?

It will potentially allow for increased rate of production for the PSLV and communication satellites. However, with regard to the PSLV production, since the industry is already involved to some degree, drastic changes are not expected in the near term. In the long term, this is a good step as it mirrors other commercialisation efforts taking place around the world, namely in the US.

One of the challenges you have talked about is that ISRO launches only two PSLVs a year, when theoretically it can launch as many as six. Given the huge costs involved in rocket launch, do you think it is prudent to launch so many PSLVs even if capacities exist?

The PSLV has proven to be a low-cost vehicle at a time when supply of low-cost launch vehicles around the world is decreasing.

Yes. The market demand is sufficient to sustain it. Furthermore, it will help India to be more of a key player in the commercial satellite launch market. Tangential industries will also benefit, and thus, it is a good and promising thing for the Indian economy.

Between 1999 and 2011, ISRO has launched 26 international satellites aboard PSLV. Does that not indicate that India already is on track in commercial satellite launches?

Definitely. However, the potential is much greater. As indicated earlier, market demand for launches will sustain an increased launch rate for Indian vehicles. Furthermore, as satellites become more miniaturised, the need for lower cost launch options will increase. The PSLV has proven itself to be a relatively low-cost and extremely reliable vehicle. The supply of low-cost launch vehicles around the world seems to be decreasing as well. So this is an optimal time for India to increase its share of the commercial satellite launch market.