The sky is not the limit for Indian satcom

Source: Financial Express, Jun 15, 2020

There is some ‘breaking news’ that slipped past almost unnoticed this month while we were glued to our screens for news on the coronavirus and lockdown. While the public is well aware that the country’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has done the nation proud with incredible accomplishments, it needs to appreciate that great leaps in the area of commercial satellite communications are now in the offing to accelerate the progress towards the national goals of Digital India and Broadband for All.

On May 16, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that, as part of the stimulus package, the government would welcome involvement of private sector players in space activities. This brilliant and historic announcement will help fast-track national space activities, including the all-important commercial satellite communications programme. This is a most impressive step forward, and the minister and the government need to be lauded for kick-starting this great odyssey.

A few years ago, the erstwhile chairman of ISRO had pointed out that the then capacity of 34 working commercial communications satellites was barely half of what the country needed. This laid severe constraints to meeting the ever-increasing broadband demands from all sections, including the government, the private sector and millions of consumers.

He urged the domestic industry to come forward and help augment the manufacture and launch of satellites. And now, this partnership between ISRO and the private sector will propel India’s future to greater heights. In the interregnum since then, the satcom gap between India and the rest of the world has not reduced but rather widened.

The finance minister’s announcement is clearly aimed at addressing the above gap and also powerfully attracting foreign investments into the country—an estimated FDI worth $3-5 billion or more. Manufacturing of ancillaries and terminals could further boost Make in India and employment.

There are three chief ways to offer connectivity—the two terrestrial technologies of wireless and wired, and both these need to have much backhaul and backbone of optic fibre cable (OFC), or the third possible technology of satellite-based communications. The last becomes eminently viable and attractive for difficult-to-access and remote areas, of which India has a plenty. Satcom is also most reliable backup or redundancy for regular locations as well as for coping with disasters. Here, we must leverage the power of private enterprise to support and supplement government/ISRO’s efforts in the strategic area.

Other countries also employ this model. While the US does depend on the national space agency (NASA for defence and strategic needs), all commercial communication satellites are built by private players such as Hughes Echostar, Viasat and Intelsat. This is in spite having only one-fourth the population India does and one of the highest fibre connectivity throughout the country, and the world.

The US relies heavily on satellite broadband to connect rural areas, with over 4.7 million subscribers connected on satellite broadband. It continues to connect additional approximately 1 million customers via satellite every year. The EU and even most countries in Asia are way ahead of India in terms of connectivity. In stark contrast, India has barely 0.3 million subscribers connected to narrowband connections. It’s time for change.

The accompanying table compares satellite broadband connectivity for the US, the EU and Asian countries versus India. It can be seen that even disregarding the aspect of broadband versus narrowband and the aspect of supporting terrestrial connectivity, while the average satellite connectivity for the other three regions considered is 0.001856 million connections per million population, in India it is about nine times lower, at 0.000231 million connections per million population.

If one considers other aspects also, then India’s satcom potential is further enhanced. The importance of commercial satellite communications applications is also shown by the accompanying graphic, which indicates the total number of satellites available globally and the percentage of satellites dedicated towards commercial communications.

With one-seventh of the world’s population and vast regions with inaccessible terrain, rural, and remote and unconnected villages, by all reasonable reckoning India should have a proportional share of the global satellite market. In 2015, the market was valued at $323 billion. Of a total of 1,381 satellites, 37% (518) comprise of commercial communication satellites.

The total number of communication satellites in orbit has grown since then, but India continues to have only a handful of these, a mere 41, all of which are government-owned and controlled. To reach the Broadband for All and Digital India goals, we should be having at least 80-90 communication satellites today. Empowering the private sector would help India bridge the gap quicker, and be in the public interest of inclusivity and provide a much-desired boost to GDP.

What lies before India is a tremendous opportunity that can be realised through the announcement of May 16. These reforms will attract huge FDI, lead to employment generation, and offer local players a competitive boost in Indian and global markets by promoting Make in India. This sector will always be open to healthy competition, and a vibrant market as a result is likely to witness huge customer benefits besides manifold increase in government revenues. We believe this is a landmark announcement and marks a watershed moment in the country’s space sector.

The demand for satcom is further accentuated by the exploding data demand due to IoT, 5G, Industry 4.0, Digital India, smart cities, etc. Additionally, with the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a significant shift in working patterns. With a large number of the active workforce working from home, the demand for quality internet connectivity in rural areas has skyrocketed.

The government alone cannot cope without the active involvement and cooperation of the private sector. It is clear the government now expects private sector players to jump in and do their duty to help realise Digital India through the important role of satcom. We hope ISRO and the government capitalise on the momentum gained by the May 16 announcement.

The sky is not the limit for Indian satcom. This can be an example of atmanirbharta par excellence.

Successful launch of two BrahMos missiles from land and air platforms

Source: IBEF.org, Dec 18, 2019

Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), Indian Air Force (IAF) and BrahMos jointly successfully conducted two BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles tests today, one each from land and air platforms.

 

The first missile launch was from a land based mobile launcher, where most of the components were indigenous, including the missile airframe, fuel management system and DRDO designed seeker.

The second launch of the missile was carried out by Indian Air force (IAF) from SU-30MKI platform against a sea target. The test conducted in user configuration, revalidated the ship attack capability of the advanced air-launched cruise missile. During the test, the missile was gravity dropped from the air combat platform’s fuselage and the two-stage weapon’s engine fired up and the missile straightaway propelled towards the intended target positioned at the sea, piercing it with pinpoint accuracy. Read the rest of this entry »

ISRO launches CARTOSAT 3, US satellites into space

Source: The Economic Times, Nov 27, 2019

SRIHARIKOTA, ANDHRA PRADESH: ISRO has successfully launched its third-generation earth-imaging satellite into space from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

The launch will enhance India’s ability in high-resolution imaging and also reinforce India as a global launch destination for small satellites using its workhorse rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

Besides the CARTOSAT 3 satellite, the PSLV C-47 rocket carried 13 nano satellites from the US, roped in through the new commercial arm New Space India.

“This would have the most advanced spatial resolution capability in our observation satellites,” an official associated with the launch had told ET earlier.

The Cartosat 3 follows similar launches in an earlier series deployed for cartography (map-making applications), infrastructure planning, coastal land use and regulation, road-network monitoring and more importantly, change detection in bringing out geographical and man-made features. The mission life of these satellites were five years.

According to the ISRO 2018-19 annual report, the CARTOSAT 3 is a 3-axis agile satellite with a spatial resolution parameter of 0.25 m, an advancement from the previous series, which had the parameter at less than 1 m.
The launch, originally slated for Monday, was put off by two days.

Among the American satellites aboard is a technical demonstration spacecraft from US-based company Analytical Space Inc, which enables users to fain faster access to satellite data. American satellite rideshare coordinator SpaceFlight, which facilitated the payload purchase for Analytical Space, had said last month it would complete 100 spacecraft launches on ISRO vehicles by end of 2019. ISRO’s forthcoming launches in December have more satellites coordinated by SpaceFlight.

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India ready to take a giant leap into space, to set up own station

Source: LiveMint.com, Jun 14, 2019

NEW DELHI: Having entered the Mars orbit in its first attempt and given the world evidence of water on the moon, India on Thursday announced plans to set up its own space station, marking its biggest leap yet in space exploration.

The 360-tonne International Space Station (ISS) circling the earth 400km above its surface is the only space station with a human crew. A multinational collaboration of Europe, the US, Russia, Japan and Canada, it has six astronauts on board at anytime of the year.

“Our space station is going to be separate and much smaller. We will launch it as a small module and that module will be used to carry small micro-gravity experiments. We are preparing the proposal to submit to the government after the successful completion of Gaganyaan in 2022,” said K. Sivan, chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). Read the rest of this entry »

Saab inks MoUs with Indian aerospace firms

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Feb 21, 2019

Saab, a global products, services and solutions firm with a footprint extending from military defence to civil security, has taken another step forward to expand its presence in India by signing Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with three aerospace manufacturers.

The MoUs with CIM Tools and Sansera are to expand the existing working relationships with Saab on commercial aero-structures for the Gripen fighter and other defence-related products in the Saab portfolio.

The MoU with Dynamatic is a starting point to explore future joint opportunities in commercial and defence-related aerostructures work, including Gripen. Read the rest of this entry »

Government approves Rs 10,000-crore continuation programmes for PSLV, GSLV

Source: The Economic Times, Jun 07, 2018

Bengaluru: The government has committed Rs 10,469 crore to India’s space agency to build 40 rockets over the next five years, which includes ten heavier rockets or the Geo Synchronous Satellite Launch vehicle (GSLVMk-III) that can hurl 4-tonne communication satellites into space.

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved 30 operational flights of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), the workhorse rocket of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) between 2019-2024.

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NASA shows interest in made in India technology for spacecrafts

download (2)Source: Financial Express, Jan 28, 2018

Jaipur: A new thermal spray coating technology used for gas turbine engine in spacecrafts developed by a Rajasthan-based researcher has caught the attention of a NASA scientist, an official said. Expressing his interest in the research, James L Smialek, a scientist from NASA wrote to Dr Satish Tailor after it was published in the journal Ceramics International and Thermal Spray Bulletin, said SC Modi, the chairman of a Jodhpur-based Metallizing Equipment Company (MEC). While working at MEC as a chief scientist, Research and Development, (R&D), Dr Tailor developed the controlled segmented Yttria Stabilised Zirconia (YSZ)-Plasma sprayed coating technology, which according to him could reduce the thermal spray coating cost by almost 50 per cent. “In simple language, vertical cracks (segmentation) in the coating are beneficial for gas turbine engine application used in spacecrafts,” Dr Tailor said.

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Aerospace engineering co Aequs to set up Rs. 500-cr facility in Goa

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Feb 17, 2017

Bengaluru: Aerospace precision engineering and manufacturing company Aequs announced at Aero India 2017 that it is setting a dedicated facility for Indian defence production in Goa.The company’s multi capability aerospace and defence manufacturing facility will come up at Tuem, Goa.

Aequs, which entered into the defence manufacturing business in 2013, has been actively looking for opportunities to partner with many India’s R&D organisations and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).Since then, Aequs has been working with HAL on machined structural parts for various platforms, including Light Combat Aircraft, Sukhoi 30MKI, ALH, among others.

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Global aerospace firms use tie-ups to tap India market

images.jpgSource: Business Standard, Feb 16, 2017

Bengaluru: Joseph Weiss, president of Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd (IAI), is bullish on India. His company is developing the medium-range surface-to-air missile (MR-SAM) with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and it has been expanding business.At AeroIndia 2017 here, he signed a term sheet for a joint venture with Kalyani Strategic Systems, part of the Pune-based auto component maker Kalyani Group that is building a strong defence business. “We will transfer technology to build these products for India,” said Weiss, who has similar ventures with Tata Advanced Material and Bengaluru-based Alpha Design. On Wednesday, Weiss also signed a contract with Dynamatics Technologies to build mini unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the armed forces.

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ISRO sends record 104 satellites in one go, becomes the first to do so

index.jpgSource: The Economic Times, Feb 15, 2017

Indian Space Research Organisation orISRO today created a world record in the space arena by sending 104 satellites in a single rocket.

The space agency’s trusted workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C37, on its 39th mission, took off in the morning, at 9.28 am, today, from Sriharikota space centre with the 104 satellites belonging to international customers.

“This is a significant step for India. This entire launch will last for 28 minutes…It is a four stage mission. The first satellite will go in the 17 th minute followed soon by two nano satellites by India. Later 96 satellites will be placed in their orbits,” said Ajay Lele of ISRO.
The first to be let off was India’s high resolution Cartosat-2 series satellite made especially to monitor activities of India’s hostile neighbours at a resolution of less than a metre keeping a bird’s eye view on both Pakistan and China.

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