G Madhavan Nair, Chairman, ISRO
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is one of the newer players in the launch services market and hopes it can build a strong business and tempt customers from the more traditional launch service providers.
G Madhavan Nair, the chairman of ISRO tells Via Satellite Associate Editor Mark Holmes why he is confident that ISRO can offer compelling launch service options to customers.
Via Satellite: How would you assess the launch services market over the last year?
Madhavan Nair: ISRO and its marketing arm, Antrix, are quite pleased with the launch services that were offered using Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in the last year. For the first time, we launched a primary satellite, the Italian Agile, besides two others — the Indonesia Lapan-Tubsat and Argentina’s Pehuensat-1 — as piggyback satellites. We expect to have similar number of commercial launches in the coming one year also.
Via Satellite: How does ISRO compete against the industry heavyweights such as Arianespace, ILS and Sea Launch?
Madhavan Nair: PSLV, with 10 consecutively successful flights, has indeed become a reliable and versatile launch vehicle. It offers great flexibility for small and medium satellites at an affordable cost. It can launch satellites into different orbits. Also, there are very few launch vehicles for small satellites, and hence our PSLV could be the appropriate vehicle for many customers. Launches of PSLV at fairly regular intervals could suit many customers schedule quite effectively. ISRO launch vehicles offer advantages for certain range of spacecraft weight, particularly for small and medium spacecraft, for which choices are limited in the market. Also, ISRO has an excellent infrastructure and proven capability and have always given success to the customers. This track record itself can attract customers looking for a reliable launch vehicle for their small and medium class of satellites.
Via Satellite: How many contracts are you looking to win in 2007 and 2008?
Madhavan Nair: During the year 2007 ISRO/Antrix contracted to launch four satellites including two as primary payloads on board PSLV and two as piggybacks. We expect to launch around the same number of satellites during 2008.
Via Satellite: What are your plans to order new vehicles?
Madhavan Nair: Over the next two years, we expect six more launches of PSLV and four GSLVs (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicles) to meet the domestic requirement for remote sensing, communication and scientific satellite missions as well as to meet the requirement of international customers. The vehicles are already under production. The capital expenditure plan mainly covers the development of improved version of launch vehicles like GSLV Mk-3 that will have a capability to launch 4-ton class of satellites into [geosynchronous transfer orbit] and development of new technologies aimed at reducing the cost of access to space.
Via Satellite: How could you assess ISRO’s financial position?
Madhavan Nair: Although the launch service business is witnessing up and down trends due to over capacity as well as policy environment, there are expectations for growth in launch opportunities for timely and reliable launch providers offering services at competitive costs. ISRO/Antrix has seen consistent growth in revenue and profit over past years. It expects to grow further since its operations cover diverse areas including delivery of satellites, launch services, marketing of imageries from space and lease of transponders.
Via Satellite: With more competition than ever before, are there enough deals out there for everybody?
Madhavan Nair: The thrust for new programs in space explorations, increased number of Earth observation missions and mobile satellite services can all be major factors in sustaining increased launch capacities. The increasing competition in launch service market can lead to better efficiency and promise many new applications of satellites.