Since its inception in August 15, 1969, the organisation’s capabilities has expanded from facilities services such as communication and navigation to newer areas of research such as inter-planetary missions.
The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) trajectory has taken a cosmic leap since its inception 50 years ago.
Starting from small satellite launches in the 1970s to conducting inter-planetary missions in the 21st century, ISRO has crossed multiple milestones since it foundation on August 15, 1969.
Most recently, its moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, is on track as the orbiter is seeking to enter the Moon’s orbit. India’s first manned space mission, Gaganyaan, is scheduled for 2021 and that is on track as well.
The organisation’s capabilities has expanded from facilities services such as communication and navigation, to newer areas of research such as inter-planetary missions over the last five decades.
Chandrayaan-2 and Mars mission Mangalyaan are prime examples. Going by ISRO chairman K Sivan's statement, there are more such projects in the pipeline, including Aditya — a mission to the Sun.
In an interaction with Moneycontrol, KR Sridhar Murthi, who headed ISRO’s commercial arm, Antrix Corporation, said, “Over a period of time, India’s space programme became multi-dimensional. Many space applications have become business areas such as telecom, navigation applications.”
“So many industries today depend on data from space to provide information services, which are used by enterprises and for governance,” he added. With ICT applications penetrating every sector, the role of ISRO will only will become more important.
For instance, many agriculture startups use satellite data for weather analysis to help predict the accurate time for sowing. Most of the navigation applications used by cab aggregators and food delivery apps bank on data sent by navigation satellites.
In a conversation with Moneycontrol earlier, an ISRO spokesperson said the company is in talks with several mobile manufacturers for taking its indigenous global positioning system (GPS), NAVIC, forward, which uses a different frequency as compared to the regular GPS and hence needs a different chip to capture the signal.
Greater collaboration have also been seen between the government and the industries in recent times. For Chandrayaan-2, ISRO worked with close to 620 industries that contributed to close to 60-80 percent of the cost.
“With the government’s intention to open up space telecommunication, we can expect that there would be private companies in the future that will be investing into satellites and operating them. They may have alliances across overseas companies and so on. This sector is bound to open up.”
In addition, there are several starups which are taking risks and taking up projects in this area. “So all this can provide basis for future growth for space commercial activities,” he added.
According to him, this is exactly where the ISRO is moving to as the emphasis has moved on from government-focused as the needs are growing both globally and domestically.
There are challenges of course. Murthi said that ISRO needs to step up its exports given its proven capability. “We have done fairly well in terms of exporting data from Indian remote sensing satellite. Today most of the capacity is taken by the domestic market itself that far exceeds the requirement. We need to build more assets to grow exports in the area,” he added.
Another area that has huge potential for growth are launch vehicles. Countries such as Israel use ISRO’s satellite launch vehicles. “We have done very well is the launch vehicle for small satellites to medium range now across different orbits. We have capabilities to service the market. This is another area where there is potential to carve out a niche in the international market,” he added.For all this to happen, there is a need for more public private partnership (PPP). “It is a challenge to find very industrial partners, who will come up with risk-based investment. We need to develop a strong mode where PPP model can be successfully demonstrated. This has to be scaled up,” Murli pointed out.Subscribe to Moneycontrol Pro and gain access to curated markets data, trading recommendations, equity analysis, investment ideas, insights from market gurus and much more. Get Moneycontrol PRO for 1 year at price of 3 months at 289. Use code FREEDOM.