CHENNAI: It’s a big opportunity for the youth who are fascinated about space technology. As part of its capacity building exercise, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has decided to give ‘room’ for the ideas from educational institutions and private industry.
The national space agency is exploring several options, with the domestic demand for application-specific satellites increasing and with a multi-billion international market at its doorstep. As such, the country plans to put 70 satellites in the orbit in the next five years, a target that calls for partnering with educational institutions and the private sector.
According to ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar, the agency wants to streamline the entire operation, wherein it will collaborate with the industry in a much larger scale to increase the number of annual launches between 12 and 18. As of now, it delivers eight launches on an average per year.
Special schemes are in the offing where the brightest of ideas coming from the academia and the industry will be screened through a selection process. The ISRO will then give shape to those ideas with its own expertise. For example, IIT Madras is working on a 10-kg payload that will provide scientific data for researchers to assist in early earthquake detection. A major announcement in this regard is expected by the year-end, Kumar said.
“The ISRO will give an opportunity to educational institutions, industry or a combination of both to build small satellites that render specific application needs. We are also thinking of letting them design and configure certain components in our satellite like power, volume etc. This will encourage new application-based and original ideas coming from outside the agency, and improve the innovative approach. By the end of this year, we will make an announcement on how exactly these schemes will operate,” Kumar said.
With the launch of PSLV-C34, when the agency successfully field-tested its newly-acquired capability to place satellites in different orbits, the ISRO now has the liberty to restructure the operations, said K Sivan, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC). Sivan said two more student satellites are in the pipeline.
The ISRO chairman recalled how they had to negotiate with the customers to adjust the difference in altitudes and local time when they had to launch different satellites for different orbits. “Now, with this restart capability, we can easily meet the customer specifications,” he added.
2nd vehicle assembly
One of the constraints the ISRO face is the time being consumed in getting the vehicle ready. To address this issue, a second vehicle assembly building project is being fast-tracked and it should be operational soon.
Kumar said the ISRO was looking at removing bottlenecks, if any, to increase launches. “One of the efforts towards that end is a second vehicle assembly building, which is getting ready and which will help increase the number of launches. Our effort is to continuously assess the situation to improve our launch frequency.”
The VSSC in Thiruvananthapuram plays a key role in addressing some of these constraints by aggressively pursuing the realisation of Reusable Launch Vehicle, which is one of the most technologically challenging endeavours of the ISRO.