The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has opened up its satellite center to different companies, a move aimed at encouraging the private sector’s participation in the space industry. With this, private players will be able to use ISRO’s infrastructure for their missions.
The Times of India reports that ISRO’s UR Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) was recently used for satellite testing by Tamil Nadu-based Space Kidz India and Bengaluru-based Syzygy Space Technologies. ISRO chairman K Sivan has told the Indian daily that they found problems with solar panels and their team is helping to fix it.
They have also tested UNITYsat, which is a combination of three satellites designed by Jeppiaar Institute of Technology, GH Raisoni College of Engineering, and Sri Shakthi Institute of Engineering and Technology. Sivan said ISRO is helping in solving the problem of the separation system with UNITYsat.
In the coming months, two more companies — Agnikul Cosmos and Skyroot Aerospace — will be testing the engines at Sriharikota spaceport and Thiruvananthapuram rocket center. ISRO will also be offering its mapping services to “we MapmyIndia”, which builds digital maps and offers GIS services.
In June 2020, the Indian government had opened India’s space programs to private players after the Cabinet gave the nod to private sector participation in the entire range of space activities. To realize that goal, the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) was formed.
The objective of forming IN-SPACe was that it will act as an arm of the ISRO and provide “a level playing field” to private companies in the country’s space programs. Under the same, the government had allowed the private players to use ISRO’s infrastructure, scientific and technical resources, and even data for their space programs.
Among the first private players to benefit from the ISRO’s facilities would be Bengaluru-based space technology start-up, Pixxel, which will launch its first satellite, ‘Anand’, as part of its commercial operations this year.
As reported earlier by The Eurasian Times, Anand will be the first private remote-sensing satellites to be launched using ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket. Pixxel aims to develop 30 earth imaging satellites (EOS) in the next two years.
The private sector’s participation in India’s space industry is expanding. In December 2020, a privately-built rocket Vikram-1 had cleared a key test. It has three solid fuel-powered stages each with a burn time ranging between 80 and 100 seconds, as per the reports. In December 2020, Skyroot Aerospace had successfully test-fired the first solid rocket propulsion stage demonstrator called Kalam-5.
Another outstanding success!
In an India’s first by a private company and a major milestone for us, we are thrilled to announce successful test firing of our first solid rocket propulsion stage demonstrator: Kalam-5.
— Skyroot Aerospace (@SkyrootA) December 28, 2020
Before the opening up of the ISRO to private players, the companies had a limited role in India’s space sector. Their participation was restricted mainly to the manufacturing and fabrication of rockets and satellites.
Last year, ISRO chairman K Sivan had told the media that the Indian industry accounts for a mere 3% of the rising $360-billion global space market. While rockets and satellite launch accounts for just 2% of it, satellite-based services and ground-based systems control the rest of the market, he had said.
Since Indian companies lacked resources and technology to handle independent space programs and ISRO couldn’t cater to the rising demand for space-based applications and services within India, it was crucial to give a push to the private companies.
If routine programs are handled by private players, ISRO would be able to focus on “research and development activities, new technologies, exploration missions, and human spaceflight programs,” according to a government note.