Sunday, June 13, 2010

Indian Space Program Relies On Commercial Cooperation

Emerging Markets India

Aviation Week & Space Technology Jun 14 , 2010 , p. 70

Neelam Mathews
Hyderabad, India
Frank Morring, Jr.
Hyderabad, India

Cooperation in space is commercial as well as international for India
Printed headline: Open For Business

In India, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) can be a lucrative associate for large, medium and small enterprises, as more than 500 companies now contribute to the Indian civil space program.

As India’s space program grows, more business—currently not in high volumes—is expected as exports rise. ISRO’s budget for outsourcing work to industry exceeds $1 billion this year.

As it creates an Indian supply chain using public-private partnerships, opportunity grows with the rise in international space cooperation, as with its Chandrayaan series of lunar probes.
U.S. scientists join Indian colleagues in preparing the M3 (Moon Mineralogy Mapper) instrument for Chandrayaan-1. It later found evidence for lunar water.Credit: INDIAN SPACE RESEARCH ORGANIZATION

“It is a model of development that offers a sustained order book for tapping niche capability such as components, titanium forgings and small actuators,” says Rahul Gangal, senior vice president of Religare Defense Advisory Services. “It’s not about volume; it’s about value and future infrastructure that will be ready for a fast-evolving space industry, he says.

The market is growing, as is the high-end manufacturing sector for small electronics and specialized metals. There is value added, and quality standards are high. ISRO has been instrumental in developing industrial capabilities to deal with specialized metals and alloys that will give a boost to the industry, adds Gangal.

ISRO is dependent on its suppliers, as its facilities are primarily involved in integration and assembly, according to S.M Kapoor, CEO (Aerostructures), Taneja Aerospace and Aviation (TAAL), which has absorbed new technology to provide structural stages for the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle.

Kapoor is quick to add that while the business is not large, it is continuous for a medium-sized business like his.

When ISRO set up an Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) in 2008, which included the $20-million 32-meter (105-ft.) antenna to track the lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 and future planetary forays (see p. 62), the prime business was contracted to government-owned Electronics Corp. of India Ltd., a leading supplier of ISDN network termination solutions. The software was supplied by Bhabha Atomic Center. About 70% of the work on the project was handled by the private industrial giant, Larsen & Toubro, which fabricated the structure, and by Godrej Aerospace, which provided the “periscope” waveguide.

However, the space industry in India is still young. Often, software is developed and designed by ISRO. “We use the industry for lower-end work like coding and testing under supervision,” says one ISRO official. “It is difficult to check bugs as it requires experience and knowledge.”

“Risat (radar-imaging satellite) development used industry because of transmitters involved,” says Kiran Kumar, associate director of the Space Applications Center in Ahmadabad. “They were built and integrated there.”

Risat has a C-band (5.35-GHz.) synthetic aperture radar with a spatial resolution of 1.5 meters.

Kumar acknowledges the industry is capable of doing much more with a higher level of capability. “Being a government entity, there are procedural problems to get work done within timelines,” he says. “Today the industry can go faster, as they are focused. However, it will take a certain amount of time for them to [be aware of] quality. This is something we will have to guard against.”

Private Wipro Infotech, having worked on programs for Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., expects to provide software engineering services for Chandrayaan-2 . “This is a new area for us,” says spokesman Shiva Kumar Hossamani.

The company will soon delve into aerospace manufacturing, including activators for launch products. It is also looking at collaborating on robot design and India‘srover to land on the Moon.

Original equipment manufacturers “view India as a low-cost country but it is not, as manufacturing has to follow processes, and equipment is expensive,” says Hossamani. “The difference is people that add value through multi-skilling. Our policy is to source critical parts in-house and outsource non-critical ones.”

ISRO’s commercial cooperation isn’t necessarily limited to Indian companies. Recently, Boeing Defense, Space and Security officials spoke of cooperation areas for building India’s capacity for manned space missions, echoing Meera Shankars, India’s ambassador to the U.S., on the importance of human space exploration. India has indicated it would like to partner with NASA on the International Space Station.

One possible area of cooperation between Boeing and ISRO may be the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) contract awarded by NASA to Boeing to initiate design and development architecture of a commercial crew transport to and from the ISS (AW&ST Feb. 8, p. 23).

Possible Indian contributions include the Launch Escape System (LES), development of an LES vehicle health-monitoring system and abort triggers, life-support system components, and crew accommodation hardware. “Small components is what we would like to do. This would mean technical collaboration,” said Roger Krone, president of Boeing Network and Space Systems, during a visit to India in February.

“More countries can now participate in the ISS, which will be in orbit until 2020. A broader international use of that asset would be positive,” says Krone.

To the Indian space industry, that would mean more business.

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