ISRO's got a long way to go before it generates revenue from spin-off technologies

Exhibition at the inauguration of Symposium on Human Spaceflight and Exploration Present Challenges and Future Trends jointly organized by the International Academy of Astronautics and ISRO in Bengaluru on Wednesday.BCCL
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has ambitious plans for space exploration over the next decade.
  • However, its commercial arm New Space India Limited (NSIL) lags drastically behind other space agencies.
  • Originally brought in to replace Antrix Corporation and sell ISRO's spin-off technology — NSIL is yet to diversify beyond launching satellites.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has a bunch of big-ticket events lined up for 2020. And, projects like Chandrayaan 3, Gaganyaan and the new spaceport will require considerable expenditure.

However, the Indian government might not be able to shell out a large outlay to the space research, as its own fiscal deficit has started hurting it.

"It will be a growing trend. Last year, it was around ₹12,000 crore. This year it will be much more because there will be allocations for Chandrayaan 3, Gangayaan and for other exploration missions. There are also a few communications satellites that are coming up," Chaitanya Giri, a fellow of space and ocean studies programme at Gateway House, told Business Insider.

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While the government may be strapped for cash, ISRO's commercial arm — New Space India Limited (NSIL) — is another way for the space agency to generate revenue. While it has been launching numerous satellite for countries around the world, it's nothing beyond the usual client-vendor arrangements that have been in place for years.

India needs to catch to the rest of the world
One of the primary reasons that the Indian government scrapped the Antrix Corporation, NSIL's predecessor, was so that it would take technology developed by ISRO and commercialise it. However, a year since the announcement, NSIL is yet to venture into the arena.

"NSIL will take spin-off technologies which are developed within the Department of Space (DoS) labs and they'll try to commercialise it and generate revenue from there," said Giri.

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It's not that selling space technology to other countries will generate a lot of revenue. The reasons it's important for NSIL to expand beyond satellite launches is because diversification is an important part of surviving in the industry.

"We haven't done this before. We're lagging tremendously behind other space agencies. Although that revenue is less, one has to diversify revenue sources. NSIL will hopefully do just that," he added.

See also:
Exploring space is expensive — and ISRO needs more money from the 2020 Union Budget

ISRO outlook 2020: Indian private sector eyes $30 billion space launch pie

India's second mission to land on the Moon, Chandrayaan 3, confirmed by ISRO chief
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