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Indian Space Program Goes Commercial

The Italian Agile astronomical satellite.

Vital gear for rocket launches handed over to ISRO
Chennai (PTI) Apr 20 - The RH-560M Motorcase, a vital piece of equipment that can help cut the amount of fuel needed to launch rockets, was handed over to the Indian space agency here today. The Motorcase was handed over to B N Suresh, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) of the Indian Space Research Organisation, by city-based Ramakrishna Engineering Company. Suresh later told a press conference that VSSC is trying to configure low-cost effective technology for air breathing propulsion. "The RH-560M enhances the capability of the launch. It can save almost the whole amount of of now only the US has it. We will be the second country to go in for it," he said. ISRO plans to test the air breathing propulsion technology by January or February next year, he said. The April 23 commercial launch of the Italian satellite Agile from Sriharikota by ISRO, the first such launch from India, would be a "significant" event, Suresh said.
by Anil Penna
Bangalore, India (AFP) April 21, 2007
India will launch an Italian satellite via a home-built rocket this week, seeking entry into an exclusive club of nations that have put their space programmes to commercial use.

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will on Monday carry the Agile astronomical satellite from the Sriharikota spaceport, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Chennai in south India, space agency officials said here.

India wants to join and compete with the United States, Russia, China, the Ukraine and the European Space Agency in offering commercial satellite launch services, a market worth up to 2.5 billion dollars a year.

Monday's launch of the 352-kilogram (774-pound) Agile satellite will be a key test of the country's commercial launch capabilities.

"Success is very important in a mission like this because that's what customers look for," said K.R. Sridhara Murthi, executive director of Antrix Corp., the marketing arm of India's space programme.

"For us, it could be a stepping stone towards expanding the commercial dimension of the Indian space programme," said Murthi, 57, who is overseeing India's efforts to win space business overseas.

India started its space programme in 1963, and has since developed and put its own satellites into space. It has also designed and built launch rockets to reduce its dependence on overseas space agencies.

It carried out the first successful launch of a domestic satellite, which weighed 35 kg, by a home-built rocket in 1980.

In those days, reaping commercial benefits from the programme was far from the minds of Indian policymakers and scientists, who were preoccupied with harnessing space technology to boost deficient communications and broadcasting facilities.

Satellites were designed to map natural resources and predict the weather to help farmers and the teeming masses of rural poor.

"We haven't reached the end of the road on those objectives yet," said Murthi, a mechanical engineer with an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad.

The vast majority of India's 650,000 villages, home to two-thirds of the country's 1.1 billion people, are still not a part of the communications network, and natural disasters such as drought and cyclones continue to take a heavy toll of life and property.

Murthi said India could not afford to make commerce the primary objective of its space programme until the country's development goals were met, and could only offer "spareable capacity" to potential customers.

Nonetheless, India wanted to be recognised as a "serious player" in space commerce, aiming for a 20 percent share of the satellite launch market, with plans to carry out two or three missions a year, he said.

Antrix also plans to offer overseas customers a package deal under which local engineers would design and fabricate satellites for launch by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which runs India's space programme.

"We call that on-orbit delivery," said Murthi, who was previously at Bangalore-based ISRO, where he took part in satellite programme planning and technology transfers to companies.

For Monday's launch of the Italian satellite, ISRO is charging 11 million dollars, the Press Trust of India has reported. Space agency officials have confirmed the fee is close to that figure.

The PSLV that will carry the Italian payload into space has carried out nine successful launches since 1994 -- including eight remote-sensing and one amateur radio satellite -- and is known as the workhorse of the Indian space programme.

Capable of placing 1,500-kg satellites into orbit, the rocket has been modified to launch the much smaller Agile, together with which it will carry a space module to test avionic systems like mission computers and navigation systems.

"The launch should prove the reliability and versatility of the vehicle," said S. Krishnamurthy, spokesman for ISRO. "We expect our launch capability to attract more interest" from potential customers, he added.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Russia Puts 16 Foreign Satellites Into Orbit
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Apr 18, 2007
Russia has successfully launched a Dnepr carrier rocket, the first since the failure in late July 2006, and put 16 foreign satellites into orbit, the Federal Space Agency said Tuesday.

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