The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) reliable PSLV seems to be getting bigger satellites to launch from foreign customers than earlier, going by the two deals struck in the last two weeks. ISRO recently said it would launch these four satellites, from two clients, in the next two years. In significant twin contracts, ISRO’s commercial arm, Antrix Corporation, has bagged a deal to launch three 350-kg Disaster Management Constellation (DMC) satellites from the U.K.-based DMCII — a group company of European space and defence major EADS. The second deal is for Singapore’s first Earth observation satellite, the 400-kg TeLEOS-1. So far, excluding two instances, small experimental satellites of between five and 100 kg have dominated the 35 foreign launches that ISRO has made on the PSLV. The three DMC satellites are planned to be launched in one go, on a PSLV by year-end or early 2015, according to an ISRO official. TeLEOS-1 is also planned for 2015-end, as a primary passenger.
Nearly half-dozen smaller client satellites that signed up with Antrix apparently await a PSLV flight. ISRO will have to match them with a primary co-passenger and tuck them in suitably on a future PSLV, depending on their orbital distance, inclination and satellite features. ISRO has not mentioned the fee it will charge for these launches; in 2012, it reportedly earned around Rs. 90 crore for launching its heaviest customer satellite, the 720-kg French SPOT-6. France’s space agency CNES is using the PSLV once again around to launch SPOT-7 around May or June this year. The two deals that Antrix signed, on January 29 and February 5, are prestigious, the official said. After doing more than 25 flights, each time with single or multiple passengers, the workhorse PSLV rocket’s standing has risen in the highly competitive global market for launchers. The launcher has also put in space the Indo-French Megha Tropiques and SARAL satellites, but above all, “after it launched the Indian Mars Orbiter Mission [in November 2013] its credibility is very high,” the official, who is familiar with these developments, told. “It is perceived as a versatile delivery vehicle that can meet almost any launch requirement, whether polar, low inclination, equatorial [as with Megha-Tropiques], a geostationary transfer orbit or multiple launches.”