India’s big plans in small satellite manufacturing

India’s big plans in small satellite manufacturing

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India – ISRO estimates that a market potential of 50 satellites over the next decade and this amounts to a whopping $1.5 billion.

With the successful launch of the Chandrayan 1, with payloads from different countries aboard, India has now the capability of commercially launching satellites from different countries, opening a new source of income for the country in the international space market.

As if this is not enough, an ISRO space official has also stated that India can become a major player in the global small satellite manufacturing industry. ISRO estimates that a market potential of 50 satellites over the next decade and this amounts to a whopping $1.5 billion. ISRO has already formed a special team for this purpose and will launch two such small indigenously manufactured satellites in 2009 and 2010, along with overseas payloads.

The advantages of small satellites are that their mass and volume are low, and they are therefore less expensive to be carried to their orbits. Also, they take less time to build and the money required is also far lesser than large satellites. D.V. Raghave Murthy, ISRO’s small satellite projects directors told IANS “The satellites give a good performance owing to miniaturization, and simultaneous launch of several satellites is possible if the orbit is same.”

The small satellites will have two variants according to ISRO – micro and mini. Micro satellites will weigh 100 kg, with a payload capacity of 30-40 kg, while mini satellites would weigh 400 kg, with a payload capacity of 200 kg. ISRO also makes communication satellites of the INSAT series; the INSAT-4 weighs around four tones and costs about Rs.3 billion.

ISRO launched its first mini satellite – Indian Mini Satellite (IMS-1), weighing 85 kg using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle – PSLV-C9, in April this year. Mr. Murthy said of the IMS-1 “The cost of IMS-1 was around Rs.500 million. The value of each satellite would vary depending on its payload – the instruments it would carry. The mini satellite has two high performance payloads – multi-spectral camera and hyper-spectral camera. Injected into polar sun-synchronous orbit, the satellite is providing good data.”

Even though it is small in size, the mini satellite has advanced features too. Murthy said “The miniaturization technologies, developed for small satellites, can be transplanted to bigger ones, thereby reducing their weight.” The second micro satellite – YOUTHSAT, will be launched next year, with two Indian and one Russian payload from Moscow University. Murthy added “We will also launch SARAL, a mini satellite with French payload some time in 2010.”

Speaking of the application potential of small satellites, he added: “It is mind-boggling. They can be used in remote sensing, atmospheric monitoring, gas detection, pollution monitoring, ionospheric tomography, ocean monitoring and studies, low earth orbit communications, Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV),” added Murthy, about the application potential of small satellites. He said that many space agencies are now involved in making small satellites.

ISRO has become a serious challenger and competitor to the Britain-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, OHB Germany, Canada’s MDA and Comdev, Israel Aerospace Industries, Orbital Sciences in the US, Thales Alenia in Europe among others.

Since it already has the necessary expertise in making big communication satellites, ISRO hopes to make big in this market and will supply satellites to overseas clients. K.R. Sridhara Murthi, executive director of Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO said “We are targeting a revenue of around $60 million from manufacturing satellites for others.”

It would be interesting to note that ISRO has built and delivered a 32 transponder satellite, W2M, weighing 3,200 kg for the Paris-based Eutelsat Communications. This order is from EADS Astrium, which is Europe’s leading satellite system specialist. Transponders supplied by a European manufacturer were assembled at the ISRO satellite center in Bangalore.

ISRO has also grabbed a contract through EADS Astrium for Avanti Screen Media, to manufacture a highly adoptable satellite. What could be better news for India, than India making it big time in the lucrative space industry at times, when most countries are getting sucked into the vortex of economic recession?