Interview With : A S Kiran Kumar, the chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro)
Updated on: 28 Jun 2016
Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has shown noteworthy results in launching rockets and satellites to space on a shoestring budget. A S Kiran Kumar, the chairman, talks of what's on and what lies ahead, in an interview to Alnoor Peermohamed & Raghu Krishnan. Edited excerpts:
Where is Isro today? What are the plans in the coming decade?
We have focused on communication, navigation and earth observation capabilities in satellites. In all these areas, we're limited by our capacity to realise and launch. Today, we have 35 satellites. If you see in terms of requirements, maybe I should have double this number operating at any given point of time, to meet our requirements. We have to build capacity and are increasing the number of launches of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). We started with once in a few years, then a couple in a year. Till recently, we were 2-2.5 per year but we've already tried to make it sic-seven a year in terms of PSLV.
But, then, this increase cannot happen on its own. We need a supply chain capacity and the industry is trying to build more. We have to give emphasis and make sure that industry capacity grows and our own capacity, the number of launches, grows. In the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), we had issues; we have overcome that. We've launched two GSLV Mk-II and are planning that every two years, we will launch a Mark II. Then, Mark III this December and the next December we intend to complete that. In PSLV, while we are using it for our own capacity, whatever is left, we're augmenting and providing solutions for others. So, it has become a vehicle that is sought after when it comes to that.
So, while we are enabling and enhancing the capacity for our own use, we also have an opportunity to make it commercial. Towards that, we are discussing with industry on how to form a consortium or a mechanism where our capacity for launching can go up to maybe 12-18 a year. One is a consolidation phase and the other is capacity building to meet the growing demand.In this, where are we compared to global agencies?
As things progress and there is more demand, you need to ensure something else. If you look at the cost of access to space, a lot of private entities are getting into this space, whether in America or Europe. When they start operating, they will be looking at how the cost can be brought down. So, these are also challenges to agencies like ours. All government agencies have to start looking at these scenarios.
A large number of smaller satellites are coming out. They require launch opportunities which others have not been able to provide and we have been able to. You need to leverage that but also ensure you continue to improve your ability to provide solutions at a contemporary and competitive price. That is where our reusable launch vehicle (RLV) comes into the picture.
We also have our own science missions. You need to make sure for the capacity you are building, that you keep challenging them to do more and more difficult activities. So that their ability to visualise and find solutions to even our regular activities also gets continued. In this, where are we compared to global agencies?