Boost for India’s credentials as launch pad for neighbours

Many smaller nations aiming to put their satellites into space before next year

September 25, 2014 01:21 am | Updated April 20, 2016 06:11 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Officials and staff of the American Embassy in New Delhi congratulate Indiaon the successful Mars mission.

Officials and staff of the American Embassy in New Delhi congratulate Indiaon the successful Mars mission.

With the success of Mangalyaan, India has boosted its credentials as a potential launch pad for its resource-strapped neighbours, said a senior government official on Wednesday. That it was able, outdoing China’s efforts to land on Mars, to achieve the feat at a much lower cost than previous U.S. missions would give India greater confidence.

“China has been more proactive in our neighbourhood but I am told India is also getting into the game after our agencies flagged this aspect. Now, we will be able to approach these countries with more confidence,” said the official, who is well-versed with the International Telecom Union’s (ITU) process of allocating orbital slots for satellites.

The official pointed out that speed was of essence. Many of India’s smaller neighbours were aiming to put their satellites into space before next year to avoid the tightening of rules arising from pressure from land-based wireless companies, which have demanded that allocated orbital slots must be freed for spectrum use if satellites were not launched within the specified time frame.

Developing countries called for stringency after certain corporates were found bending ITU rules discouraging “spectrum squatting.”

Among India’s neighbours, it is becoming a symbol of national pride to launch satellites independently rather than hire transponders from other nations. The previous government had highlighted the ISRO’s relative lack of initiative.

It has become even more crucial for India to bag contracts for developing and launching satellites of Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Nepal and Bangladesh because of the security implications if Chinese players are successful. Indian officials fear the repercussions of a third country becoming involved in the region’s space activity.

For instance, Sri Lanka’s SupremeSAT has already signed a satellite launch agreement with Chinese Great Wall Industry Corporation. Colombo reportedly plans to add a space academy to the proposed ground station at Kandy. “We would naturally prefer Indian engineers and scientists to be involved in the designing and manufacturing of the Sri Lankan satellite,” said the official.

Bangladesh’s first proposed satellite Bangabandhu-I, named after the father of their nation Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, is supposed to be designed and launched by a United States–based firm. But India could renew its offer on the back of Mangalyaan success.

Both China and ISRO venture Antrix Corporation were in the race for Maldives’ satellite market, said the official, adding that according to his information a couple of rounds of talks had been held.

India has considerable experience in launching satellites for third countries, putting in space 15 foreign satellites in the past five years. “The Mars mission should provide a boost to our efforts,” said the official.

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