ISRO opens up satellite making to industry

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The GSLV-Mk III takes off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. File

The Indian Space Research Organisation has opened the door to domestic entities that can give it up to 18 spacecraft a year starting mid to late 2018.

The Bengaluru-based ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC), which has so far produced about 90 Indian spacecraft, on Monday invited single or combined industries to apply for this opportunity.

ISAC Director M. Annadurai told that the centre expected to select five or six contenders from this exercise “if they are found technically suitable.”

Three-year contract

ISAC would sign a three-year contract with the finalists, train, handhold and supervise their teams in making its range of satellites at its facility.

The Indian Space Research Organisation Scurrently makes four categories of spacecraft — communication, remote sensing, navigation and scientific missions — and in three sizes of 1,000 kg to 4,000 kg.

The first lot of spacecraft from this exercise was expected in about six months from the signing of the contracts. This is also roughly the normal time taken to assemble a satellite.

“The outsourcing of assembly, integration and testing [AIT] in a way covers operational spacecraft, mostly repeat types that ISRO routinely requires.

The contract mentions milestone payments, assigning of new spacecraft upon delivery; and a possible renewal of contract after three years.

Benefits for ISRO

“Right now, the manpower of ISAC/ISRO is not adequate for meeting both the increased load of making more satellites; and also for the R&D that we need for future satellites. The present bid to outsource our AIT will help us re-deploy our human resources effectively and focus on R&D,

It would also aid self-reliance by way of an independent Indian satellite industry.

Important missions

Although the goal is to get vendors to realise satellites “end to end”, ISAC would retain important and scientific missions.

In the $ 339-billion global space industry, satellite manufacturing accounts for 8% or $13.9 billion ( data as per the Satellite Industry Association’s 2017 report).

This segment is led by established players from the United States and Europe who supply satellites to their government and commercial users.

ISAC’s EoI is seen as a first step towards the making of an Indian space industry.

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