By Monish Gulati
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is primarily engaged in research and development activities in the area of space technology and its applications. All the commercial activities related to space technology are managed by Antrix Corporation Limited, the commercial arm of Department of Space.
ISRO has mutually signed a formal Memoranda of Understanding with many foreign countries such as Australia, Italy, Brazil, Japan, China, Kazakhstan, Canada, Netherlands, Egypt, Russia, France, Sweden, Germany, Ukraine, Hungary, United Kingdom, Israel and the United States of America. ISRO carries out joint operations with foreign space agencies. In 2004, the Indo-French collaboration called the Megha-Tropiques Mission (MTM), was planned to study the water cycle in the tropical atmosphere with respect to the climate change. The collaboration brought the two nations closer.
Similarly, ISRO and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)/ NASA are jointly working on the development of Dual Frequency (L & S band) Synthetic Aperture Radar Imaging Satellite named as NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR)
As part of space cooperation between India and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), ISRO, is working towards the establishment of a Satellite Tracking & Data Reception Station and Data Processing Facility in Vietnam for ASEAN Member countries. This facility is intended to acquire and process Indian Remote Sensing Satellite data pertaining to ASEAN region and disseminate to ASEAN Member countries. Under this initiative, all ASEAN member countries will be allowed to access processed remote sensing data pertaining to their country. The ground facility is designed in such a way that it will not allow Indian data to be accessed and processed by the system.
All the commercial activities related to space technology are managed by Antrix Corporation Limited which is a wholly owned Government of India company under the administrative control of the Department of Space, Government of India. Antrix Corporation Limited was incorporated as a private limited company owned by Government of India, in September 1992 as a Marketing arm of ISRO for promotion and commercial exploitation of space products, technical consultancy services and transfer of technologies developed by ISRO. Another major objective is to facilitate development of space related industrial capabilities in India.
As the commercial and marketing arm of ISRO, Antrix is engaged in providing space products and services to international customers worldwide. With fully equipped state-of-the-art facilities, Antrix is a one-stop-shop for any of the space products, ranging from supply of hardware and software including simple subsystems to a complex spacecraft, for varied applications covering communications, earth observation, scientific missions; space related service including remote sensing data series, Transponders lease service; Launch services through the operational launch vehicles, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV); mission support services; and a host of consultancy and training services are also offered by Antrix.
With the versatility of products and services being marketed, Antrix caters to a prestigious clientele including some of the leading space companies across the globe - EADS Astrium, Intelsat, Avanti Group, World space, Inmarsat, World Sat, DLR, KARI, Eutelsat, OHB Systems and several other Space Institutions in Europe, Middle East and South East Asian countries.
ISRO successfully launched 20 satellites in a single launch mission onboard Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle ‘PSLV-C34’ on June 22, 2016 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. In this mission, 17 foreign satellites from 4 countries viz. Indonesia, Germany, Canada and USA were launched as co-passenger along with Indian primary payload CARTOSAT-2 series of satellite and 2 University/academic institute’s satellites as co-passenger. Earlier ISRO during the thirtieth launch of the PSLV deployed five British satellites into a Sun-Synchronous orbit on July 10, 2015 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
As on December 2016, 79 satellites from 21 countries had been successfully launched by ISRO on-board PSLV, under a commercial arrangement between Antrix Corporation Limited and the foreign customer. The countries whose satellites have been commercially launched by ISRO are Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Singapore, Turkey, UK and USA.
Some of the major foreign companies, whose satellites were launched onboard PSLV includes viz. MDA, Canada; Airbus Defence & Space, France; OHB System, Germany; IAI, Israel; ST Electronics, Singapore; Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), UK; Terra Bella, a Google company, USA; Planet Labs, USA; Spire Global Inc. USA; BlackSky Global, USA.
Antrix has earned a total income of about 21.7 Million USD and 127 Million Euros through launching of these 79 foreign satellites during the period May 1999 to September 2016.