Bangaore: India will triple its five-year space budget to nearly Rs45,000 crore by 2012 to help it launch more satellites and rockets for local and foreign customers and prepare ground to send an astronaut into space in the next decade.
The budget of Indian space agency Isro (Indian Space Research Organization) for the 11th Plan (2007-12), which is yet to be cleared by the government, is two-thirds of what US space agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) will spend in the current financial year. Nasa’s budget in 2007 is $16.8 billion (Rs68,880 crore).
China will spend one-tenth that this year on its space programme.
Isro will increase the capacity of communication transponders to 500 in five years, driven by demand from users such as Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Bharti Airtel Ltd, and satellite television operators such as STAR TV, owned by media baron Rupert Murdoch and Sun Network.
Isro will launch 16 communication satellites from its homegrown heavier rocket Geo-synchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV), to increase the capacity from the current 200 transponders on 11 satellites orbiting?36,000km above Earth.
“The operational demand is more than double to what we have been doing in the past. Our national needs are growing,” said G. Madhavan Nair, Isro chairman and secretary of the department of space.
Isro has spent the budgeted Rs15,000 crore in the 10th Plan to 2006 in addition to the non-planned expenditure of Rs1,500 crore, developing the GSLV rocket, building heavier satellites with a longer lifespan and preparing for the unmanned mission to the moon, to be launched between April and June 2008.
In the next five years the space agency will launch a series of eight Indian remote sensing satellites (IRSs) including those that will help understand monsoon behaviour and map urban areas, disaster zones and drought prone districts.
Currently, there are 10 operational IRSs, including Cartosat-2, which beams 1m resolution images that Isro’s commercial arm, Antrix Corp., plans to sell to users that include the US government, whose internal security agencies use this information.
Isro managed around two launches a year in the last five years; now it will be more than four a year, said Nair.
Isro is studying the technological challenges for a manned mission with a report to be submitted to the government by year-end. A manned mission is expected to cost more than Rs10,000 crore and may be undertaken in eight years once approved by the government, Nair said.
Isro plans to launch the GSLV rocket, designed to hurl two-tonne communication satellites with an indigenously developed cryogenic core by next April, and a bigger version, GSLV-MkIII that can carry?four-tonne?satellites?by 2009.
Once the GSLV-MkIII is operational, we will have roughly about 30-40% reduction in the cost per kg compared with today’s cost, said Nair.
Isro pitches for launch contracts at 30% less than the $25,000 per kg, charged by Arianespace, the European commercial rocket firm, and with GSLV-MkIII, it would be able to reduce costs by above half. Despite the cost advantage, India’s efforts to capture a share of the $3 billion global space launch business may slow down, he said, due to the US policy of prohibiting use of American components in Indian-made satellites and rockets.
We may see two more (foreign) satellites and two more launches in the next year or so, said Nair, but declined to name customers citing confidentiality agreements.