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Space Expo 2018 delves on challenges and opportunities for the launch vehicle industry

The global satellite launch vehicle market is growing at a rapid pace and new entrants are playing a significant role in this segment. With increasing digitization and automation, the number of satellites that would be launched to support the array of services would have to be increased by at least 3 times the current number. This means growing opportunities in the launch vehicle industry. Private players globally are enthusiastic to capitalize on this boom and leverage the opportunities.

Governments too have recognized the need of bringing private players on board and building close working relationship with private industry. In the case of ISRO, it has already expressed its intent of increasing private participation. Small satellite launch vehicle market, in particular, is a segment that is drawing most attention.

At the 6th Bengaluru Space Expo 2018, opportunity areas and roadblocks ahead for the satellite launch industry were discussed.

Lion’s share of satellite launches is still in the GEO-synchronous orbits. But the opportunities are also growing in the low earth segment. One of the major challenges encountered by companies with small payloads is the difficulty in getting adequate launching solutions that would include optimal compromise between orbital parameters, launch calendar, price and reliability.

Curt Blake, President, Spaceflight expressed his firm belief in the future prospects of satellite launch vehicle industry. He said, “Small launch vehicles have a comparative advantage over big launches that focus on dedicated launched. And this would definitely be more economically viable”.

Blake also commended Antrix in for its willingness and zest to move far ahead of other peers and competitors in the PSLV market. Curt is hopeful that SSLV would offer more diversification and optimum value.

While small satellites would definitely unleash a transformation in the launch market, Blake has words of wisdom on the appropriate size of the satellite. “Don’t go too small, stay somewhere in the middle”, he said, referring to the fact that in the rush for miniaturization, satellites shouldn’t be too small.

Arun Ramchandani, Vice President, Larsen &Toubro, spoke about emerging opportunities in the space market in India and lauded ISRO’s efforts to rope in private partners for its projects.

Last year in October, Larsen & Toubro had formed a consortium with Godrej and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for building PSLV rockets for ISRO. This year again ISRO announced that the industry majors are also involved in its small launch vehicle programs.

Valery Aksamentov, Director, International Business, Space Exploration, Boeing, gave his perspectives on the role of Boeing in the launch industry. He also said that NASA is planning to privatize the assets of International Space Station after 2024-2025. Aksamentov believes that while this would lead to more opportunities for the private players, but the onus is on them to layout a coherent and viable vison.

Interestingly, Boeing is also working on human spaceflight mission of NASA. And even though Aksamentov explained in detail his company’s progress in this project, Dr Somanath, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, who was moderating the panel, did not divulge any details on whether ISRO and Boeing are teaming on the Gaganyan mission.

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