India is building a spacecraft for mobile applications that will enable use of satellite phones without dependence on foreign players, a top space scientist said here on Monday.

Presently, satellite phones used in India are supported by foreign satellites, including Indonesian ones.

“We are yet to make an impact on satellite-based mobile communication. But again there are plans to evolve such systems,” former ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair said.

“Designs are evolved. They (ISRO) are in the process of building the satellite,” he told reporters after addressing the India Semiconductor Association’s Vision Summit.

“It requires a huge deployable antenna on board. With that...with reasonable power, we can manage hand held communication systems. Maybe in a year or two, it (the satellite) will be up,” Nair said.

He said only the S-band can be used for mobile applications. “Already ISRO is doing some work on that...almost like PC (Personal Computer) size,” the scientist said.

Responding to questions, Nair, who oversaw 25 successful missions during his six-year tenure as head of India’s space agency, stressed the need to protect India’s space assets.

“Space-based assets are used for national development. We very much depend on that. One has to ensure the security space assets,” Nair, who is currently the president of the International Academy of Astronautics, added.

“One has to work out a strategy for that. I think the Space Department will be working on that,” Nair said.

On China having ASAT (Anti-Satellite) programme and declaring that it would weaponise space, he said “India has a declared policy that space-based assets would be only for peaceful applications. “I don’t think the (Indian) government has changed that policy yet,” Nair said.

On prospects for space tourism, he said, “It’s very, very remote at the moment.”

Nair also said India badly needs a semiconductor fab. “Compared to other countries, we have not invested in this area, and at least now, we should seriously think of (it). In the last two years, a lot of discussions were going on, but nothing concrete has taken place. Looking at the value of business India has got in terms of computers and communication equipment, we need a fab,” the former ISRO chairman said.

In this context, the industry should come together and the government should also support the initiative, he said.

Delivering the keynote address at the two-day conference, Nair strongly advocated a major push in the solar photo voltaic (PV) sector.

“A big R&D thrust is needed to bring down the cost of PV systems and improve its efficiency significantly,” he said.