India Allocates $1.2 Billion for Space Activities

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BENGALURU, India — Launch vehicle development and production activities are the dominant feature of an Indian Space Research Organisation budget allocation of 73.9 billion rupees ($1.2 billion) for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, which begins April 1.

The total, presented to the parliament Feb. 28, is roughly level with the 2014-15 budget presented last year. However, ISRO typically spends significantly less money than is allocated in any given budget year — for 2014-15 it spent just 58 billion rupees of the 72 billion rupee allocation — so it seems likely that spending in the coming year will fall short of 73.9 billion rupees. ISRO spokesman Deviprasad Karnik acknowledged the possibility that ISRO’s budget will be reduced before the end of the year.

That said, the total allocation for launch vehicle technology is 26 billion rupees, a sum that includes 3.15 billion rupees for continued development and operationalization of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark -3, which will be capable of lifting 4 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit and flew a suborbital test mission in December. The budget also includes 3.12 billion rupees for production of ISRO’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

Other allocations within the launch vehicle technology budget include 1.5 billion rupees for a kerosene-fueled main engine and 214 million rupees for human spaceflight-related efforts, according to budget documents.

ISRO also is looking to increase its satellite launching capacity. The allocation includes 1.2 billion rupees for a second vehicle assembly building at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre launch facility in Sriharikota, part of an 8.64 billion rupee allocation for launch range infrastructure.

IRSNSS-1C
The Indian Regional Satellite Navigation System-1C satellite being integrated with launcher.

ISRO’s 11.1 billion rupee satellite technology budget includes 1.2 billion rupees for the Indian Regional Satellite Navigation System, a constellation of seven satellites, three of which are already on orbit. Other notable satellite technology allocations include 800 million rupees for a geostationary satellite imaging program; 310 million rupees for the Gsat-11 effort to develop a 4-ton-class geostationary-orbiting communications satellite; and 500 million rupees for a Cartosat-3 satellite capable of taking images with 0.25-meter resolution.

The satellite budget also includes 500 million rupees for the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite being developed with the U.S. space agency under a bilateral agreement signed this past September. That satellite is tentatively scheduled for launch in 2020 or 2021.

ISRO’s 3 billion rupee allocation for space science includes 400 million rupees for the Chandrayaan-2 lunar rover and orbiter mission.

For the operational Insat program of communications and weather satellites, the budget allocation is 13.2 billion rupees, a sum that includes development, launch and operations. Also included in the total is 100 million rupees for leasing capacity from foreign satellites to augment the Insat system, but ISRO set aside 478 million rupees for that purpose in 2014-15 and according to budget documents none of that money was spent.