NEWSPACE INDIA Limited (NSIL), the newly created second commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation, has bagged its first contract. A private US space services provider has booked ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), which is yet to be tested, for launching a spacecraft. The US provider, Spaceflight, announced on August 8 that it has clinched a deal with NSIL for using the second developmental flight of the under-development SSLV rocket to launch a spacecraft for an “undisclosed US-based satellite constellation customer”.
 
 
What
  1. SSLV is perfectly suited for launching multiple microsatellites at a time and supports multiple orbital drop-offs. We’re excited to add SSLV to our launch portfolio and manage many launches together — first to LEO (low earth orbit) mid-inclinations this year and SSO missions starting in the fall of 2020, Curt Blake, CEO and President of Spaceflight, said.
  2. There are more than 500 industries contributing to ISRO programmes at present; more than half of the project budget outlay for space programmes flows to these industries. 
  3. ISRO is looking at deepening these ties through NSIL with private players manufacturing some of the high turnover rockets like the PSLV and the SSLV, which has been indigenised 100 per cent over the years.
  4. Spaceflight has had nine launches in the past with ISRO involving over 100 spacecraft on the workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Spaceflight has in the past tied up with Rocket Lab and SpaceX among others to provide launch services.
  5. ISRO’s SSLV was originally scheduled to have its first development flight in July but the flight has been pushed to the end of the year. One of the mandates of NSIL is to mass produce and manufacture the SSLV and the more powerful PSLV with the private sector in India through technology transfers.
  6. The SSLV can carry satellites weighing upto 500 kg to low earth orbit while the PSLV can launch satellites weighing in the range of 1,000 kg.
  7. The SSLV “is the smallest vehicle at 110-tonne mass at ISRO. It will take only 72 hours to integrate, unlike the 70 days taken now for a launch vehicle. 
  8. The aim of NSIL, which was mentioned in the Budget by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, is to use research and development carried out by ISRO over the years for commercial purposes through Indian industry partners.
  9. There are more than 500 industries contributing to ISRO programmes at present; more than half of the project budget outlay for space programmes flows to these industries.
  10. Between the year 2008 and 2013, ISRO poured Rs 143 crore into a unit of the Kerala Minerals and Mines Ltd to build capacity to manufacture titanium sponge, a key alloy used for rocket engines.
  11. When KMML began manufacturing titanium sponge around 2014, India became only the seventh country to make the alloy — and world prices dipped from Rs 7,000 per kg to Rs 900 a kg. 
  12. ISRO has now stopped all imports of titanium sponge and relies only on the nearly 140 tonne-per-annum indigenous production at the 500 tonne-per-annum KMML plant in Kerala.
  13. Similarly, with a Rs 14-crore investment in the NonFerrous Materials Technology Development Centre at Hyderabad, ISRO is now producing a rare copper alloy known as Russian copper — used as a key material in cryogenic rocket engines — and has received inquiries for supply to Russia itself.
  14. ISRO’s existing commercial arm Antrix Corporation will handle ISRO’s commercial deals for satellites and launch vehicles with foreign customers, NSIL will deal with capacity building of local industry for space manufacturing.
Flashback
  1. Antrix Corporation Limited is the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  2. Its objective is to promote the ISRO's products, services and technologies. It was incorporated as a private limited company owned by the Indian government on 28 September 1992
  3. The company is a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU), wholly owned by the Government of India. It is administered by the Department of Space (DoS).
  4. It had dealings with EADS Astrium, Intelsat, Avanti Group, WorldSpace, Inmarsat, and other space institutions in Europe, Middle East and South East Asia.
  5. It was awarded 'Miniratna' status by the government in 2008 and achieved a turnover of Rs. 18 billion in 2014–15.

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