ISRO signs up for two more French launches, renews EADS Astrium contract

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has signed two more commercial agreements with Ariannespace, the French commercial launch services company, ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan said in his address during French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to the space agency on Saturday.

Indian satellites GSAT 8 and GSAT 10 would be launched in 2011 and 2012, he said.

The launch cost is estimated to be Rs. 250 crore for each satellite. Ariannespace has launched 12 Indian communications satellites on a commercial basis so far.

The ISRO has also renewed its five-year contract (of 2005) with EADS Astrium, a European satellite system specialist that provides civil and defence space systems and services. The ISRO envisaged that this alliance between its commercial arm, the Antrix Corporation Limited, and the EADS Astrium “will jointly address the commercial market for communications satellites with payload power below 4 kw and a launch mass in the range of two to three tonnes.”

Two satellites jointly developed by the French space agency CNES and the ISRO would be launched by PSLV next year, the ISRO chief said. Megha-Tropiques, a space mission to study the tropical atmosphere, would be launched in May 2011; while Saral, an altimetry technology mission, would be launched by December 2011.

The join projects represented “the rich legacy of collaboration” between the two space agencies, which began in 1972, he said.

The ISRO and the CNES would continue to work together and explore new domains, including climate change, Dr. Radhakrishnan said.

The French President said the Indo-French collaboration symbolised a refusal “to allow the space adventure to ever become the monopoly of just one or two States.”

Mr. Sarkozy said all States that had the means should “remain in the race” because “the conquest of space in support of human development helps us meet the critical challenges of our time.”

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