The Indian Mars Orbiter Mission, Mangalyaan, has been hyped as the cheapest space launch ever — it cost a mere $73, which puts the cost of reaching Mars at just 10 ¢/km. Having a proven track record of reliable and low cost payload launches — along with the tested multiple payload launch capabilities — the ISRO offer is undeniably among the best. The latest customer is SPOT Image, with the SPOT 7 ready for launch by the PSLV C23 carrier a few days from today.
Though it is a matter of commercial interest and pride for ISRO to be launching foreign payloads, it would be prudent to investigate if the interest in using Indian surrogates for launching payloads is just a matter of cost. With environmental activists raising hell in all developmental activities, including the impact of space launches on the ozone layer, the down to earth issue of fabricating the launcher, synthesising the solid and liquid propellants (which more often than not are highly hazardous), the waste generated from the fabrication of the nozzles, the carbon footprint of the entire process etc, is the cost to environment being factored in?
Published as editorial in Geospatial World Weekly June 23, 2014