BENGALURU: With eyes firmly set on the global launch market, space PSU New Space India Limited (NSIL) is devising strategies — including offering competitive prices comparable with SpaceX — to acquire new business and become the go-to launch service provider.
While it’ll begin India’s 2021 space launch season with a dedicated foreign satellite on February 28, NSIL has inked deals for three more dedicated satellites with a company from a Southeast Asian country.
NSIL executive director Radhakrishnan Durairaj said: “Contract confidentiality prevents us from naming the company and country, but agreements are for three Earth imaging satellites, two of which will be launched in the first half of 2022 and one in 2023. Also, we are also in talks with a host of small satellite firms globally.”
K Sivan, secretary, Department of Space (DoS), said there is a huge demand for launches, especially for small satellites to be put in SSO (Sun-synchronous orbit) which is growing exponentially.
“…Some small satellite firms are now looking at SpaceX because of lower costs. To capture this market, NSIL has been given full flexibility. It will be able to compete with SpaceX by devising its own market strategies,” Sivan said.
According to SpaceX, if one wants to launch a 637kg satellite — the weight of Brazilian Amazonia-1 NSIL will launch on February 28 — in June 2022, it will cost about $3.9 million which puts the per kilogram cost at some $6,100. Isro and its commercial arm Antrix — that signed contracts for foreign and commercial launches until the formation of NSIL — do not make such information public as a matter of policy, Isro insiders said the price range of each PSLV mission is between Rs 210 crore to Rs 270 crore.
As on date, India has launched 328 foreign satellites from 33 countries and earned $25 million from the global market including the US, and €189 million specifically from the European market.
Rakesh S, CMD, Antrix, said: “Given that these are from different years and have varying foreign exchange values, we count it in dollar and euro terms and consider the whole mission cost while calculating revenue.”
Aside from the Southeast Asian satellites, Sivan said OneWeb is looking to launch with India. “Our assessment is that a host of small satellites, and mega constellations like OneWeb and other dedicated launches will keep NSIL busy,” he said.
Durairaj further said that NSIL’s ability to have more frequent launches will be boosted by the SSLV (small satellite launch vehicle) and the second launch site the DoS is developing.
“We are looking forward to the SSLV, which will allow us to get more customers while PSLV and GSLV cater to national needs and big missions. This rocket will help enhance the number of launches,” he said.
Sivan said that the first SSLV launch will happen in the coming weeks, but did not specify a launch date. “…We are looking at next month. At best, it may get pushed to April, but we will have two launches of the new rocket. Once this is proven then the number of annual launches will go up significantly,” Sivan said.
Both Sivan and Durairaj said the second launch site — which will come up in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district — will further commercial ambitions of NSIL.
According to DoS, the TN government has identified more than 961 hectares in Kulasekarapattinam, Thoothukudi and land survey has been completed for about 431 hectares allowing preliminary notification.