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ISRO in NASA Footsteps? To Allow Private Firms in Space Business to Make Rockets, Satellites Too

Now that ISRO is in a leading position to guide indegenous atellite launchers and undertake deep space exploration, Indian industry comprising public and private sectors will be allowed to make communication satellites and build rockets over the next five years, ISRO chief said on Wednesday.

"We want the private sector and the public sector (state-run enterprises) to bring out launch vehicles (rockets) and operational communication satellites along with us in the next five years," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Radhakrishnan told reporters on the margins of a space expo in Bangalore.

The state-run space agency has been the sole producer of satellites and launch vehicles since its inception in the 1960s for its various programmes and applications.

The space agency, however, procures sub-systems and components from the state-run enterprises and the private sector on vendor basis. In fact, American space agency NASA is enlisting private firms to keep many of its space missions going for over a decade now.

Noting that making satellites and rockets would no longer be the prerogative of the space agency, Radhakrishnan said an entity or a consortium of private firms and state-run enterprises would be set up along with ISRO to produce satellites and build rockets.

"Once the industry begins to make satellites and rockets, our core teams will be able to concentrate on research and development (R&D) activities. We want the entity to take shape in the next two years, as we are looking at a five-year time line for commencing production of satellites and launch vehicles," he said.

The space agency will also explore roping in other stakeholders, including end-users for institutionalising the entity.

"We want to institutionalise production of satellites and rockets with the active participation of the industry in the coming years as space does not distinguish administrative boundaries," the chairman said after inaugurating the fourth edition of the Bengaluru Space Expo 2014 at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre.

Lauding the Indian industry for its valuable contribution in the recent Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), he said 125 companies in the public and private sectors had supplied subsystems and components in launching the year-long mission.

"The industry has helped us in building the rocket, making the spacecraft, supplying the payloads (five scientific instruments) and ground support in launching the mission and inserting the Orbiter into the Martian orbit," he told about 500 delegates participating in the three-day "International Conference on Space Business".

The biennial event is organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, ISRO and its commercial arm Antrix Corporation Ltd.

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