, India —

India’s advantage in global space markets as a supplier of lower-cost space systems is being challenged not only by the likes of China and Russia but also by companies from the United States and Britain.

Nair, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), said the launch services offered by India would be highly competitive – some 20 to 30 percent less than comparable prices on the international market. But he also conceded that “there is a lot of competition.”

Senior executives of space companies from Europe, Japan, China, Russia and the United States all attended a business conclave here that was held as part of the

International Astronautical Congress

Sept. 24-28.

“We have had some talks with potential customers but no new contracts yet,”

K.R. Sridharamurthi, executive director of Antrix,

commercial arm

, told Space News Sept.


The event provided

a forum for scientists and industry executives from abroad to get exposed to Indian space capabilities in space, Sridharamurthi said. “Contracts and collaborations are bound to follow,” he added.

Those who attended the meeting also heard business development executives from the United States offering low-cost launch services and from British executives ready to provide

package deals for the purchase of small remote sensing satellites by

developing countries.

P.S. Sastry, ISRO’s director of launch vehicles, said the agency will in the next five years double the number of launches from the present three per year to a flight rate of about six per year. “Our second launch pad at Sriharikota is one of the most modern,” he said.

ISRO officials admit their cost advantage could be

eroded with the entry of the Falcon series of rockets made by the

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX),

the U.S.

company that is offering to launch

450-kilogram payloads aboard its


1 rocket for a price of $7 million and 5-to


payloads by its planned Falcon

9 rocket for $40 million. This contrasts with about $20 million for a dedicated launch of one of

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles with maximum payload of about 1.5 ton

s, an Indian official said.

“We get this low cost by doing several things,” Space



President Lawrence Williams told the industry meeting on Sept.

25. “For instance we use the same propellant for all stages and there are savings in avionics, launch operation and overheads.”

N. Sampath, Intelsat‘s managing sales director in India,

told the business conclave that his company is likely to use the Falcon rocket for launching some of the future Intelsat satellites.

The British small satellite builder Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd

(SSTL) also has reserved a launch aboard a Falcon

1, which has not yet placed a payload in orbit.

2004 agreement

with Arianespace for shared launches of 1-ton

class payloads has so far not resulted in any contracts

for Antrix,

Sridharamurthi told Space News.

“The agreement is still in force,” said ChristopheBardou, program director in the Arianespace commercial directorate. “We are constantly looking for customers for ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.”

After initially winning two contracts to build small

communications satellites two years ago, ISRO’s alliance with EADS Astrium of Europe has not generated new business for Antrix. “We have no new contracts,” EADS Astrium

Chief Executive Francois Auque

told Space News. “But we have prospects.”

Any possibility that a U.S. company might

out-source the manufacture of

satellite components to India also appears remote. “Right now with existing regulations it is not possible,” said Larry Axton, of the John Hopkins University.

Surrey Satellite Technology

announced that its low-cost radar imaging satellite missions

would cost from a low of $10 million to a maximum of $ 50 million.

Potential application of these satellites includes disaster relief and environmental resource monitoring, said Adam Backer, Surrey’s chief engineer for business development.

Mission delivery time will not exceed 30 months from signing the contract, he said adding that Space


1 “is the current baseline selection” for launching.

“The intention is to be able to offer truly low-cost satellites ready for launch before the end of the decade,” Baker said.