Kicking off the process of "unlocking" the space sector, Indian space research organisation (Isro) will allow the "private sector to set up their own launchpad at the Sriharikota launch centre" (SHAR).
Talking to TOI, Isro chairman K Sivan said, "The space agency has started the process of involving the private sector in space activities. We will allow the private entities to set up their own launch facility at Sriharikota that they can use for launching their spacecraft or rocket. We won’t charge anything for such launches. Instead, we will provide them all the expertise they need from us for setting up such facilities." Currently, Isro has two launchpads and two rocket assembly buildings at Sriharikota.
He said that Isro is also ready to share its expertise for free with the private sector in areas where monetary support is not involved like providing technical support.
"Department of space is in the process of setting up Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) (which is being set up to promote, hand-hold, monitor and supervise space activities by the private sector). But we don’t want the industry to wait till it is set up. If private entities are interested, they can apply for it (using Isro’s space assets) now itself.
Though most centres of Isro are either closed or working with skeletal staff because of Covid-related restrictions in different states, we want to start at least the consultation process of involving the private sector in space activities based on their requirement. At least, we can get to know about their requirement," Sivan told TOI.
On the launch of satellites this year, Sivan said as some key Isro centres like Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre and Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre in Thiruvananthapuram are closed due to Covid-19, it is very difficult to carry out satellite launches with such restrictions. However, he did not rule out satellite launches this year, saying "it all depends upon the situation in coming months".
Following the recent Cabinet decision to open up the space sector for all, Isro will involve non-government private entities (NGPEs) in the production of components and subsystems of a launch vehicle, launch vehicle integration, production of components of a spacecraft, spacecraft integration and testing. It will also rope them in for providing space-based services, including operation, control and station-keeping of spacecraft by establishing and operation of ground segment or stations.
NGPEs can also provide help in development of space-based applications using satellite data and rolling out of commercial services, says a statement from the agency.