65th International Astronautical Congress | India Poised To Expand Presence in Global Launch Market

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TORONTO — India has five slots available on its PSLV launcher for missions heading into sun-synchronous orbit between 2015 and 2017, and expects that its more-powerful GSLV Mark 3 rocket, intended for geostationary-orbiting telecommunications satellites, ultimately will be able to accommodate one foreign/commercial launch a year, a senior Indian space official said.

The Indian Space Research Organisation took a big step toward deploying is next-generation GSLV rocket in January with a successful flight that marked the first use of an Indian-built cryogenic upper stage. A more-powerful version of this vehicle, called the Mark 3, is what ISRO hopes to use to attract a regular, if modest, commercial market.

In an address to the 65th International Astronautical Congress in Toronto, D. Radhakrishnan, director of launch services at ISRO’s commercial arm, Antrix Corp. Ltd., said one GSLV Mark 3 vehicle should be available per year for commercial sale starting in 2017. The vehicle is designed to launch telecommunications satellites weighing around 4,000 kilograms.

With the move among manufacturers and operators toward lighter-weight satellites featuring electric propulsion, the Indian vehicle could find itself well-placed in the commercial market now taking shape.

The GSLV’s principal use is the launch of India’s domestic telecommunications satellites, which are now launched almost exclusively by Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium.

The current global commercial market for geostationary launches is between 20 and 25 satellites per year, so India’s move — reducing total demand by removing its domestic satellites from the non-Indian launch market, and adding to supply with its own vehicle — could have an outsize impact.

ISRO and Antrix have already made a regular business of launching foreign research and Earth observation satellites on the proven PSLV vehicle. Radhakrishnan said PSLV has five slots available for commercial PSLV customers — one in 2015, three in 2016 and another in 2017 — all heading into sun-synchronous orbits of between 500 kilometers and 817 kilometers in altitude.