ISRO’s commercial operations clock in over ₹60 billion in revenue but leaves private players out of the equation

The launch of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), the cheapest mission to Mars in the worldISRO

  • Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has brought in a total of ₹62.98 billion in revenue.
  • The government plans to expand to commercial viability of its Departments of Space (DoS) by forming the New Space India Limited (NSIL).
  • Private players are still left out of the loop until the ‘Space Activities Bill’ is tabled in Parliament and passed by its members.
The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) arm of commercial operations, the Antrix Corporation, clocked in ₹62.98 billion (₹6,289 crore) in revenue from launching 239 satellites over the last three years.

And, this might only increase in the future. The government already announced that they plan on increasing the commercial viability of the Department of Space (DoS) by replacing Antrix with New Space India Limited (NSIL).

NSIL will be set up to meet the ever increasing demands of the Indian space programme. It will also help commercially exploit the global space market, according to Jitendra Singh from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Keeping costs low

ISRO has an edge over its competition as it keeps its launch costs as low as possible — something that Elon Musk’s SpaceX is also trying to accomplish by employing reusable rockets.

ISRO charges approximately $3 million per satellite launch where as SpaceX’s cost are still at around $60 million. In comparison, United Launch Alliance — which mostly launches satellites for the US government and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) — charges upward of $100 million.

But, keeping costs low comes with its own price. Most of India’s missions, like Mangalyaan and the upcoming Gaganyaan, are technology demonstrators rather than long-term voyages which collect data.

Private participation

The market for space launches is getting increasingly competitive with private players entering the field globally. In India, only the public sector is allowed to launch rockets into space.

Private participation, so far, has been limited to building components and technologies for ISRO, on a small scale.

The Indian government is currently mulling over the ‘Space Activities Bill’ to align its liability in outer space with international standards. Once the bill comes into place, it will allow private players to launch rockets with a government license.

“ISRO, competent as it is, cannot be the only warden of India’s space ambitions and necessities. This role should be extended to the private sector just as other countries are doing,” according to Chaitanya Giri, a fellow with the space and ocean studies programme at Gateway House — the Indian council on global relations.

(With IANS inputs)

See also:
India’s low cost space missions come at a price

India forms a new space company to sell ISRO’s space technology products

India’s new ‘Space Activities Bill’ will fix the liability for damage caused in outer space

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