ISRO to launch rocket solely for foreign satellites in September

New Delhi July 20 To compete with rivals in the satellite launch market, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is gearing up for full-fledged commercial launches from September onwards. A PSLV rocket will be launched in that month solely for foreign satellites.

Talking to TOI, Isro chairman K Sivan said here, “Of various missions lined up this year, the first launch will be of a PSLV rocket in September that will solely be for commercial purpose. Two UK satellites weighing 450 kg each will be the main payload. UK will use these satellites for earth observation. There will not be any Indian satellite.”

Sivan said, “Subsequent two PSLV missions will also carry foreign satellites. However those missions will be on sharing mode (it will also have a desi satellite).”

The full-fledged commercial mission is scheduled after many years. On April 23, 2007, Isro had for the first time launched a rocket solely for commercial purpose. Its PSLV-CA carried Italy’s astronomical satellite AGILE as the main payload. Thereafter, on July 10, 2015, Isro achieved another milestone when it carried out the heaviest commercial mission successfully as its PSLV-XL lifted off with five UK satellites together weighing 1,439 kg.

Antrix, Isro’s commercial arm, is widely seen as a serious contender in the global satellite market due to low prices and high success rate of the PSLV rocket, which is Isro’s reliable workhorse. Of the 43 launches till now since 1993, the PSLV was unsuccessful in only three missions with a success rate of 94%. The rocket had completed various difficult and versatile missions like launching satellites in different orbits in one mission to lifting off 104 satellites in one go. Till now, Isro has launched 237 foreign satellites of 28 countries. Isro is, therefore, making all efforts to be competitive and wants to capture a lion’s share in the global market.

Unfortunately, Isro still holds a miniscule 0.6% share in the global satellite launch market, which is estimated to be worth Rs 36,000 crore. On the other hand, Elon Musk-owned US private space agency SpaceX, which had 5% share in the commercial satellite launch market in 2013, continued to grow and gobbled up 45% share in 2017 due to its cheap and reusable rockets. It is projected to eat up 60% share this year. The US government-owned space agency NASA and Space X together capture over 65% of the market share, followed by European space agency Arianespace.