Insat-4C for Sun's DTH in April; Isro also plans first commercial launch

MUMBAI: Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is planning to launch Insat -4C in April, the satellite which Sun Group has booked for its direct-to-home (DTH) venture. The organisation will also conduct its first commercial launch of a foreign satellite in the second quarter of 2006.

"We are planning for the GSLV launch in April, which will carry Insat-4 C for augmenting DTH technology in the country," Isro chairman G Madhavan Nair told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram today on the sidelines of the national workshop on "Space Applications for Mankind", organised by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.

Sun Group has expressed interest to take up to eight Ku-band transponders on Insat-4C. Speaking to indiantelevision.com from Bangalore, Isro contract management & legal services director SB Iyer said the rest of the total 12 Ku-band transponders in Insat-4 C would be shared between BSNL for village telephony and few news channels for digital satellite news gathering (DSNG). "BSNL will require a minimum of 2 transponders. The final allocation will depend upon how many transponders Sun decides to take," he said.

Isro will foray into the commercial satellite business with the launch of the Italian low orbit scientific satellite "Agile" to outer space aboard PSLV C-8. Speaking about the maiden commercial initiative, Nair said India's launch vehicles were cost-effective. "It will be a great opportunity if Isro can capture at least 10 per cent in the satellite launch business worth $ 2 billion in the international market," he said.

India's successful testing of an 'air-breathing' engine technology in Russia for 10 seconds at ground level has significantly reduced the cost of launch vehicles. Rockets now carry fuel and oxidisers, whereas for air-breathing engines using hypersonic technology, lesser quantity of oxidisers is required.

By the time GSLV Mk-3, which could carry a 4 tonne payload, was launched in 2008, the cost of access to space could be reduced to USD 10,000 per kg of payload. According to Nair, the launch technology would be commercially feasible if the cost was reduced to USD 1000 per kg of payload. The PSLV and GSLV rockets would be launched from the first and second launch pads at Sriharikota respectively.

Iyer, in an earlier interview to this website, had revealed Isro's plans to enter into a niche market segment with launch of foreign small satellites having six-capacity Ku-band transponders from India.

"This is aimed specifically at the developing countries. In many countries like Malaysia and Thailand, there is a demand for such satellites. A part of the capacity augmentation will be through launch of such small transponder satellites. The satellites will be launched from India. We will be able to tap customers who have need for limited capacity," he had said.

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