India Moves Forward with Plans to Privatize Production of Launch Vehicles

GSLV Mark III inaugural flight test. (Credit: ISRO)

India is moving forward with transferring production of its government-built launch vehicles to private companies, Outlook India reports.

The Department of Space (DoS) plans to realise entirely-built rockets — GSLV-Mk III and SSLV — from Indian industry partners, in addition to PSLV, according to a top official of its commercial arm NSIL.

NSIL (NewSpace India Limited) has received three bids — HAL-L&T, BEL-Adani-BEML, and BHEL, in response to the request for proposal (RFP) floated by it for end-to-end production of PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle).

“We are now going through the techno-commercial evaluation (in respect of the three bids)”, NSIL Chairman and Managing Director, D Radhakrishnan, told PTI here.

He said the process will be completed within the next two months with one of the bidders bagging the contract. The selected bidder will be responsible for realisation of five numbers of PSLV.

GSLV-Mk III is India’s most powerful satellite booster. It will be used to launch ISRO’s Gaganyaan crewed spacecraft. SSLV is the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle, whose maiden flight has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Launch 2020: India’s Flight Rate Declined Due to COVID-19, but Nation Moved Forward with Commercialization

PSLV-C50 lifts off with the CMS-01 satellite. (Credit: ISRO)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s growing space program managed only two domestic launches last year as it was forced to delay the Gaganyaan human spaceflight program and several other high profile projects.

However, India was able to move forward last year on a sweeping commercialization of its state-controlled space industry designed to make the country internationally competitive.

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Indian Spaceport Becomes COVID-19 Hot Spot as Launch Drought Continues

PSLV rocket (Credit: ISRO)

The New Indian Express reports that India’s Satish Dhawan Space Center, which has not conducted a launch in nine months, has become a COVID-19 hot spot.

For the second day in a row, India’s spaceport has recorded around 31 new Covid-19 cases causing serious headache for the administration. A total of 90 people, who were primary and secondary contacts of infected persons, were tested of which 31 are diagnosed positive.

Despite the sudden spurt in cases, Shar administration has decided not to suspend the operations and 50 per cent staff are asked to attend the duty. “The Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) works are going on in full swing. We are hopeful of launching maiden SSLV flight by end of this year,” a senior ISRO official said….

But, the people who are worst affected are the contract engineers residing outside Shar colonies. A contract employee said that he did not receive salary since last four months and with rising Covid-19 cases the possibility of a call back looks grim.

ISRO has not conducted an orbital launch from the facility this year. The Indian space agency usually launches five or six times annually. India’s most recent launch was on Dec. 11, 2019.

ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Launch Center Operating with Minimal Staff as COVID-19 Cases Rise

GSLV Mk III booster lifts off. (Credit: ISRO)

Due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre has suspended all regular activities for the time being. The New Indian Express reports:

“In view of the considerable number of Covid-19 positive cases in Shar and Sullurpeta housing colonies, it is essential to trace the primary contacts, test and isolate them to avoid further spread. All the office premises need to be fumigated and sanitised wherever the Covid positive employees had worked. Hence, the regular activities of SDSC Shar are suspended till completion of aforementioned activities,” said Shar controller V Kumbakarnan, in an official circular dated August 15, which is accessed by The New Indian Express. 

Meanwhile, Pulicat Nagar employees colony, where maximum number of Covid-19 cases are diagnosed, has been placed on strict lockdown.

It is unclear how long normal activities at India’s spaceport will be suspended. The story also gave no indication of how serious the outbreak of COVID-19 is at the center.

ISRO, which typically conducts five or six orbital launches annually, has yet to launch in 2020. The space agency’s most recent launch was in December 2019.

Launches known to be on the manifest include:

  • GSLV Mk.2 — GEO Imaging Satellite 1 (GISAT 1)
  • Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) maiden flight
  • PSLV — RISAT 2BR2 radar imaging satellite
  • SSLV — 4 BlackSky Global Earth observation satellites.

India Developing New Spaceport for Small Payloads

IANS reports that ISRO has begun buying up land to build a second spaceport to accommodate small satellite launches. ISRO Chairman K. Sivan revealed the plans in a press conference on Wednesday.

“The Tamil Nadu government has begun acquiring about 2,300 acres of land in Thoothukudi district for our second satellite launch port, ideally located for launching smaller satellites in the earth”s lower orbit,” the Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman told reporters here.

“The new location is ideal for launching smaller satellites of less than 500kg in the sun-synchronous orbit,” said Sivan.

India launches it satellites from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota. The PSLV, GSLV Mk. II and GSLV Mk. III boosters are launched from the spaceport.

ISRO is developing a new booster, rather creatively called the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (or SSLV), to serve that market. Currently, small satellites are launched as secondary payloads or as part of dedicated missions aboard India’s existing boosters.

Spaceflight Purchases First Commercial Launch on India’s New Small Satellite Launcher

SEATTLE, August 6, 2019 (Spaceflight PR) Spaceflight, the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, today announced it has purchased the first commercial launch of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) from NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) scheduled for launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India later this year.

Spaceflight has already sold-out the entire manifest for this secured SSLV-D2 launch with spacecraft from an undisclosed U.S.-based satellite constellation customer. Spaceflight will aggregate the mission, delivering a single point of contact for the customer, handling all aspects of integration and mission management for the launch. 

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