ISRO to handle projects of security, advanced technology

Bulk of commercial activities would be handled by New Space India Limited

Published - March 08, 2021 10:35 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) headquarters in Bengaluru.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) headquarters in Bengaluru.

The India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has said it would be in charge of projects linked to “national security and advanced technology” — like the forthcoming Chandrayaan2 missions and the Gaganyaan mission, that plans to send Indian cosmonauts into space. However, the bulk of commercial activities would increasingly be handled by the newly formed New Space India Limited.

The comments were in response to a query by the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, led by Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh on whether the NSIL would “replace” ISRO.

The NSIL most recently coordinated the launch of the Amazonia satellite by Brazil on February 28 — its first fully commercial mission — that also saw 18 other satellites being launched.

It was incorporated in March 2019 and in June 2020 “enhanced” its scope. Its mandate, according to a standing committee report on space laid in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, would include owning satellites for earth observation and communication applications; (ii) providing space-based earth observation and communication service; (iii) building satellites and launching them as per demand; (iv) building launching vehicles through Indian industry and launch as per requirements; (v) providing launch services; and (vi) technology transfer to Indian industry. It would act as the aggregator of user requirements and obtain commitments.

Several of these activities were being handled by the Antrix Corporation, considered the commercial arm of ISRO. However, it is involved in a fractious dispute with the U.S.-based Devas Multimedia, because of which the government of India owes nearly $1.2 billion going by an order of a tribunal of the International Chamber of Commerce and upheld by a U.S. federal court last year. The NSIL, it is said, is also a move by India’s space establishment to insulate space-products marketing efforts and international business development prospects from any financial liability due to the Antrix-Devas issue.

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