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83% of Isro’s foreign launches came post 2015 under Modi Govt; 66% from just the United States

Source : The Times of India

83% of Isro’s foreign launches came post 2015; 66% from just the United States
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)'s workhorse rocket PSLV-C48 carrying India's radar imaging earth observation satellite RISAT-2BR1 and nine foreign satellites blasts off from the spaceport in Sriharikota. (PTI File Photo)

Isro, which carried out its first foreign satellite launch — DLR-TUBSAT from Germany and KITSAT-3 from Republic of Korea — on May 26, 1999, has launched 342 satellites from 34 countries since. Although it has been 22 years since Isro started accepting international customers and has launched 342 foreign satellites from 34 countries, 83% of all such launches it has carried out has come after 2015.

This spike in foreign launches also coincides with the beginning of US satellites being put into space by Isro. Between May 1999 and September 2015, Isro, through its commercial arm Antrix Corporation, launched 45 satellites. None from the US. On September 28, 2015, the mission (PSLV-C30) that saw Isro achieve the milestone of launching its 50th foreign satellite was the first time that a satellite from the US was put into orbit by India.

The launch involving six foreign satellites — one each from Indonesia and Canada and four from the US — was the first time India launched a satellite from the US. This mission also saw Isro put the country’s first dedicated space telescope, the AstroSat, into orbit. Since that launch, Isro has launched 291 foreign satellites, including three in 2021 — Brazil’s Amazonia-1 and two US satellites — that were launched through the NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), India’s first space PSU that became operational in 2019.

While satellites from the US account for 66% or 266 of the 342 launches carried out by India, their share has been much higher when you look at the launched post 2015, at 78%. Aside from the US, the UK and Canada, with 12 satellites each have launched most with India, while Germany, which was among the first countries to partner with Isro, has launched 11 launches using Indian services.

Isro Chairman K Sivan said: “The US carries out the most number of commercial launches and unlike many other partners we have, there are a lot of non-governmental launches from the US. And, there are companies that bring such users’ satellites for launch on-board PSLV.” All the 342 foreign satellites India has placed in orbit have been by Isro’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). After crossing the 50th foreign launch milestone, Isro had said: “Though PSLV was designed to launch Indian remote sensing satellites into polar sun synchronous orbit, the vehicle has repeatedly proved its reliability and versatility by successfully launching satellites into a variety of orbits including polar Sun Synchronous, Geosynchronous Transfer and Low Earth orbits of small inclination, thereby repeatedly proving the robustness of its design.”

While India has earned foreign exchange amounting to hundreds of dollars and euros with these launches, NSIL, according to the Centre, has signed six launch service agreements with customers from four countries for launching foreign satellites into space on-board PSLV during 2021-2023. Foreign exchange revenue of approximately €132 million would be earned through launching these foreign satellites on a commercial basis,” union minister Jitendra Singh had recently said. While this is for the next two years, India has, through launching foreign satellites, earned a foreign exchange revenue of about $35 million and €10 million during the last three (2019-2021) years.

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