K R Sridhara Murthi
antrix corporation, india
Antrix Corporation – the marketing arm of Department of Space, Government of India – has achieved steady progress since its establishment in 1992. In this interview K R Sridhara Murthi, Executive Director, Antrix Corporation talks about the role played by the organisation in helping firmly establish the IRS Satellites in the global market
What have been your major achievements in the commercial sector since the inception of Antrix in the year 1992?
Indian Remote Sensing Satellites (IRS) has been firmly established in the global market place for over a decade now. In this endeavour, we have an alliance with one of the market leaders, namely Space Imaging of USA. Our other achievements include successful launching of four satellites for international customers from Belgium, Germany and South Korea. Antrix provided mission support for international satellite operators such as EUTELSAT, Worldspace, American Asia Pacific and Canadian Space Agency. In recent years, capacity for INSAT satellites are being increasingly leased to private commercial users and customers abroad.
What advantage have you reaped with your strong relationship with the government, industry and the academia?
Outer space is a field, which is characterized by demand for large front-end investments, which often are risky and therefore requiring strong policy initiatives and a long-term approach. However, those endeavours are also home to new skills, technologies and innovative approaches, which drive numerous downstream applications as well as commercial opportunities. Therefore, a symbiotic relationship among space agency/government, industry and academia augurs well for creating maximum impact. In our case too, the strong relationship, which is forged among these entities has been responsible for sustaining and growing our space endeavours in all their multiple dimensions. The main advantages that we reaped with these strong relationships are: our end-to-end capability and an impressive growth rate by global standards.
What steps are you taking to promote the market of IRS products and also the market of commercial launches?
In the sphere of promoting market for IRS products, we adopted a multi-pronged approach to face global competition. Firstly, there are continuous upgradations in technical performance of our satellites. This will mean bringing in new datasets such as all weather, high resolution and even hyper spectral data from Indian satellites in future. Our earth observation programme assures a long-term continuity for data availability, through a constellation approach. The other important initiative, which we would pursue is expanding domestic market and strengthening role of industry in value added sector. In the long term, we would also be looking for partners for space segment investments, which cater to customers in global market.
Recently your collaboration with Space Imaging was in the news. Can you please enlighten us regarding this?
Antrix has an ongoing collaborative arrangement with Space Imaging for global marketing of IRS data. This arrangement was to expire in early 2005. This collaborative effort is now agreed to be continued to enable marketing of the recently launched RESOURCESAT-1 data. As you may note, already IRS data is being marketed in different continents including North America, Europe and Asia through a dozen international stations, which receive data from IRS-1C/1D satellites. Further, five more stations receive data from our OCEANSAT (IRS-P4). The endeavour is to equip most of these with a capability to receive RESOURCESAT data and also to expand this activity into new territories.
To what extent has the market changed for you for IRS images with the successful launch of Resourcesat-1?
There is growing market interest in RESOURCESAT-1 data because of its unique capabilities. Advanced Wide Field Sensors is an instrument, which is unparalleled in the world in terms of its capability for synoptic surveys of large areas at high temporal frequencies and with good resolution. LISS-4 is another instrument in this satellite, which brings higher radiometric accuracy and improved resolution for multi-spectral data. Data close to these characteristics and available from high-resolution satellites are very expensive and in this respect, RESOURCESAT can find its own niche in the market. Our aim is to gradually increase our global market share to about 25% in relevant product range.
It is widely known that PSLV demonstrates ISRO’s capacity to place in orbit multiple satellites from a single vehicle at highly competitive rates. How are you are able to provide such competitive rates?
ISRO was able to nurture and retain an excellent set of dedicated professionals in diverse disciplines that encompass space launch vehicle development activities. Satellite launch vehicles demand significant level of contributions from expert human resources in the fields of design, analysis, systems engineering, testing and quality control. India also has abundant supply of knowledge workers at the most competitive rates in the world. This provides us with a capability to produce such complex systems at competitive cost.
How you will compare the market for PSLVs and GSLVs?
PSLVs and GSLVs are developed essentially to cater to our national demands for launching Remote Sensing, Communications, Weather observation, Navigation and Scientific satellites. However, they could also serve a modest part of global demand. PSLV is already known for its versatility, reliability and cost effectiveness. We hope to see the same for GSLV, after a few more launches. However if you look at launch services markets globally over past few years, you will see that markets are experiencing a significant downtrend, affecting all global industries in this area. Hence, we need to persevere. While we have potential market for 2-4 launches annually for commercial customers, we should also recognize that the market access is heavily influenced by political factors apart from the cost and reliability considerations.