Space race

Isro’s satellite launch record affords it bragging rights, but competition is set to get stiffer with Elon Musk’s SpaceX coming in with reusable rockets


Isro on Wednesday launched 104 satellites on a single rocket, cementing India as the destination for low-cost satellite launches. Photo: PTI
Isro on Wednesday launched 104 satellites on a single rocket, cementing India as the destination for low-cost satellite launches. Photo: PTI

The Indian Space Research Organization’s (Isro) successful mission on Wednesday is being lauded for good reason. Carrying a record 104 satellites on a single rocket affords bragging rights—but more importantly, it cements India’s reputation as the global destination for low-cost small satellite launches. This is a lucrative business, and the added potential for developing a space ecosystem that sees other countries investing in ancillary ventures in India makes it more so.

But challenges remain if Isro is to maintain its competitive edge. With the entry of private sector companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX—which is working on reusable launch vehicles, an area where Isro still has some distance to go—competition will grow stiffer. And there’s the fact that Isro’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, capable of launching heavy satellites and thus pulling in big bucks, is still very much a work in progress. But given what Isro has been able to achieve on a shoestring budget so far, it would be a mistake to bet against it.

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