India to launch US-made satellites on commercial terms

July 29th, 2009 - 7:18 pm ICT by IANS  

ISRO Bangalore, July 29 (IANS) The technology safeguard agreement (TSA) signed recently paves the way for India to launch US-made satellites from its spaceport at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, a top space agency official said Wednesday.
“Space cooperation with the US has been high on the government agenda. We have negotiated and signed the TSA with the US State Department to enable us launch US-made satellites and satellites carrying US components on commercial terms,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman G. Madhavan Nair told IANS here.

The TSA was signed July 20 in the presence of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in New Delhi.

Prior to the agreement, users of non-commercial satellites had to wait for clearance by the US administration case-by-case.

“The TSA will smoothen the arrangement now. The satellites will be brought to India and we will provide the launch services on mutually agreeable commercial terms,” Nair said on the margins of a launch event.

Antrix, the Rs. 10-billion commercial and marketing arm of the space agency, will enter into commercial terms with users for launching their satellites.

In the non-commercial satellite space, users in diverse areas will be able to put medium to lightweight satellites in lower orbits for various applications.

ISRO can launch such spacecraft as a piggyback onboard its polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) and geo-synchronous satellite vehicle (GSLV).

Though the TSA creates opportunities for the Indian space agency to get more foreign non-commercial satellites for launch from its spaceport, the proposed commercial space launch agreement (CSLA) with the US government will enable India compete in the international market for launching heavy commercial satellites.

“Heavy commercial satellites also could be considered on a case-by-case once we have the CSLA in place,” Nair pointed out.

Official sources hinted that the CSLA would be signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visit to Washington in November.

The state-run ISRO has two launch pads at Sriharikota, about 90 km north of Chennai, for putting communication and remote-sensing satellites in polar and geo-synchronous orbits on board PSLV or GSLV.

Allaying fears of global meltdown impacting space industry, Nair said the demand for communications, direct-to-home services, earth observation and scientific experiments had remained steady.

“We are finding that demand for communications, broadcasting and remote-sensing satellites or transponders is going (steady) much more than we have anticipated. Our target is how to bridge the demand-supply gap by putting more resources,” Nair noted.

ISRO plans to increase the number of launches per year making optimal utilisation of resources available at its spaceport.

“We have increased the number of launches from hardly one to three or four every year. We have already launched two satellites this year and two more, Ocenasat and GSAT-4, are due by this-end.”

Clarifying that there was no end-user agreement with the US in space cooperation, Nair said half of ISRO’s centres were not under the US sanctions anymore though some of them are still under the entity list requiring clearance by the US Commerce Department for using technologies and products manufactured by American firms.

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