The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has, for the first time. Got inquiries for launching commercial satellites on its most powerful launch vehicle — the GSLV-MK3.
According to multiple sources in the department of space (DoS), the first launch may happen as early as the beginning of next year.
“There are inquiries, and the DoS is in advanced stages of discussions with one major player for commercial launches. At this juncture, we cannot name the company/companies. But I can say this is a major project,” a source said.
So far, all of DoS’ commercial launches have been carried out by its workhorse PSLV. In the past decade or so, the PSLV has put into orbit nearly 320 foreign satellites and earned a foreign exchange revenue of multiple million dollars.
In the past few years, Isro has been looking at leveraging the more powerful class of rockets — the GSLV family — for commercial launches but with no success.
“Although we’ve been looking at using GSLV for commercial launches, we had not put it out there until now. And after this project is materialized, you will see a lot more GSLV-Mk3 commercial launches,” another source said.
In a separate development, space PSU NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), which has been mandated with producing launch vehicles. It is also looking to issue an expression of interest (EoI) for GSLV-Mk3, enabling private players to build the rocket.
NSIL is at present in the process of evaluating bids for bids submitted by industry players. One by a consortium of HAL and L&T, the second by a consortium comprising Adani-Alpha Design, BEL, and BEML, and the third by BHEL as a single firm.
NSIL CMD Radhakrishnan D told TOI once the process involving PSLV is completed, they will issue the EoI for GSLV-Mk3. “We are specifically looking at Mk-3 and not other GSLV class of launch vehicles.”
While the contract for five PSLV launch vehicles is likely to be signed by the end of this year. NSIL is yet to announce a specific timeline for kickstarting the GSLV-MK3 production.
Senior officials from the Isro and NSIL feel that once private industry begins building launch vehicles, the number of commercial and science launches can be increased significantly as the turnaround time taken for building each rocket will be reduced.
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