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US, India move towards space research cooperation

Space technology officials from the US and India are exploring ways to collaborate on space programmes, putting behind them years of sanctions that followed New Delhi`s nuclear tests in 1998.

India hoped that a five-day conference that opened on Monday 21st June in the southern technology hub of Bangalore will lead to the lifting of all restrictions on US high-tech exports to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), its space agency.

India also wants access to the latest US technology and to take part in joint space missions. America is keen to use Indian space technology such as remote sensing – India plans to launch 40 satellites capable of collecting images of the earth by 2008 – and also to step up exports of parts for rockets, satellites and other equipment.

US officials taking part in the conference include Kenneth Juster, undersecretary in the department of commerce; Frederick D. Gregory, deputy administrator of NASA; and Lee M.E. Morin, deputy assistant secretary for science in the State Department.

Boeing, Raytheon, Panamsat, Intelsat, Worldspace, Qualcomm and Hewlett-Packard are among the companies taking part along with several US universities.

ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC) director PS Goel said that India was “showcasing” its capabilities to the US industry to influence the US government for favourable policies towards the Indian space programme.

“There is lack of understanding in the US government and US experts on what we in India can offer. We want to showcase our strength to the US industry that can look at our cost effective programmes and explore business opportunities,” Goel said. He said the dialogue would be beyond the government level and look at greater participation from the US industry.