Larsen & Toubro, Godrej and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd will join a consortium, being put together by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), to build Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLVs). The vehicles will launch small satellites, and the first launch is being planned by 2020.
A pact is to be signed by January for this initiative, said a source. India’s space agency, which has designed the rocket, has been building and launching satellites, including probes for the moon and Mars missions, on its own. It has more work on its plate to meet the country’s requirement of building heavier rockets and reusable spacecraft that can carry bigger satellites and a capsule that will eventually put a man in space.
There is a huge spurt in demand to launch smaller satellites, those as light as 1 kg, with a lifespan of two to three years. But there aren’t enough rockets to carry these. The PSLV, following its successful 104 satellite launch in February, has emerged as a preferred vehicle for small satellite launches globally. SpaceWorks, a US satellite researcher, estimates that about 2,400 nano and microsatellites are expected to be launched between 2017 and 2023.
The latest forecast says nearly 60 per cent of the satellites planned are from private players, against 40 per cent in the five years to 2016. Isro says India is a sweet spot to tap this opportunity. It is gearing up to allow private players that have built systems and components for its space programme to completely integrate rockets.
This way, these players can meet local requirement and offer an integrated service of building satellites, launch these for global customers on Indian soil and also manage these as a service. For this, a company is being formed with Antrix, the commercial arm of Isro, as an anchor but with a larger stake for private players.
L&T, which builds equipment for rockets and satellites, Godrej that makes the Vikas engines for the PSLV, and HAL which makes its composite frame will be the main partners.
An ISRO spokesperson could not comment immediately on the development of the pact. Godrej Aerospace produces Vikas — the rocket engine that powers the PSLV and the heavier geo-synchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) — besides various systems such as antennas and thrusters for satellites of ISRO.
The firm has expressed interest to be part of the consortium. “It is at a very nascent stage right now, the discussions are going on how to form a consortium and who will do what,” said Jamshyd N Godrej, chairman of Godrej & Boyce in an interview in September. “If you have to really develop a major aerospace industry in India, you need all these building blocks. Companies with different expertise have to come together, otherwise it will be difficult.”