The head of India’s space agency has urged the Indian industry to partner in developing a cost-competitive reusable rocket in the shortest possible time.
“The whole point we are discussing with the industry today is that the rocket has to be cost-effective. Its rate of launch per kilogramme to whatever orbit it is sent to has to come down to the internationally competitive level,” the chairperson Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) & secretary Department of Space, Dr. S Somnath told Business Today on Wednesday.
Dr. Somnath said it also meant the proposed reusable launch vehicle would have to incorporate technologies that were highly cost-effective in the Indian context.
“We are in the process of assessing what is the right route to give us the least cost. Already our [development] costs are lower than anyone else’s in the world. The [per] unit cost of the rocket has to be lower. Which means that if reusability has to come, new technologies have to come,” he observed.
Currently, none of the two operational ISRO rockets, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), are reusable.
Dr. Somnath was emphatic that the entire design and manufacturing of the reusable rocket would happen in collaboration with the industry. The Indian commercial space industry will also have to take on the responsibility of managing it.
“It must also be owned and operated by the industry ecosystem and not by ISRO. We will continue to be the designer and mentors to handle such a complex machine to ensure its reliability and operability. But it has to be owned and operated by the business houses to operate it commercially,” he asserted.
Dr. Somnath sought the industry’s support in converting the idea into a reality in the shortest possible time.
“Team ISRO is working to define the design and then showcase it to the industry to convert it into a full-fledged rocket in not later than one year.”
He, however, declined to elaborate at this stage whether the rocket would be used only for launching satellites or it would also be capable of conducting human spaceflights.
Earlier addressing the first edition of the Indian Space Congress in New Delhi, Dr. Somnath said the building of satellites had to progressively move from ISRO to the private sector.
“We want more and more satellites to be built in the industrial ecosystem. One of the ideas today is to make ourselves an anchor customer of privately developed satellites and launch them as ISRO satellites to boost the private ecosystem,” observed Dr. Somnath.
He said this intervention would provide the global community with confidence in satellites developed by the private industry here.
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