Bangalore: The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) on Monday launched an Israeli spy satellite, the first dedicated launch of a foreign satellite using a home-grown rocket, as it aims to garner a share in the multi-billion global satellite launch market.
The satellite will be able to track the goings-on in the territory of its top enemy, Iran, even at night and in cloudy weather, according to Israeli officials, AP said in a report from Jerusalem.
Isro used a stripped-down polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV), the space agency’s workhorse rocket, to hurl the 300kg Tecsar satellite, also called Polaris, into a low earth orbit, where such satellites are placed at 600km above earth.
Isro had removed the rocket’s six strap-on boosters, used to hurl satellites of nearly two tonnes, for the Israeli satellite.
The satellite with a synthetic aperture radar or SAR, which has round-the-clock capability to see through clouds and in extreme weather, was built by MBT Space, a unit of Israeli Aerospace Industries.
Isro had previously aborted a Tecsar launch in October due to technical glitches and had kept Monday’s launch under wraps.
Isro chairman G. Madhavan Nair, speaking from Sriharikota, the space agency’s launch pad on the eastern coast, said Isro had got a higher price than the prevailing international price for such launches. He declined to reveal contract details, saying it may affect “future launch contracts”. Usually Isro pitches for launch contracts at 30% lesser than the $25,000 (Rs9.85 lakh) per kg charged by Arianespace, the European commercial rocket company. “We are talking to customers for two more launches this (calendar) year,” said Nair, but declined to elaborate, saying the contracts were yet to be signed.
Analysts said India and China, nations that are building infrastructure and technology in the space industry, are competing for a lucrative market dominated by companies in the US and Europe. “You can see (from the attitude of) Western countries, I don’t say they fear India, (but) they see clear sign of competition (from Isro) in the long run,” said Claire Jolly, space policy analyst, at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. “We are clearly seeing Isro getting more and more market share in the services space,” she said.
The global satellite manufacturing and launch industry is expected to grow to $145 billion for the next 10 years to 2016, from $116 billion in the 10 years to 2006, according to Paris-based research firm Euroconsult. Demand will come largely from established space powers such as the US, Europe, Russia, Japan, China and India, says Euroconsult on its website.
Isro had launched a 352kg Italian astronomical satellite, AGILE, in April, the first big satellite contract it bagged since it went commercial.
The organization also has a heavier rocket, GSLV, to launch communication satellites 36,000km above earth.
Antrix Corp., Isro’s commercial arm, earned Rs$11 million for the launch of AGILE. Antrix earned revenue of Rs600 crore for the year ended March.
AP contributed to this story.