|India strides to space with more satellite launches|
|Wednesday, 30 April 2008|
REUTERS, NEW DELHI--India plans to launch at least six satellites a year as it expands its capabilities to claim a bigger chunk of the global space business, the head of its space agency said on Tuesday.
India sent 10 satellites into orbit from a single rocket this week and is planning more launches before a manned mission to space by 2015.
"We are gearing up to at least half a dozen launches a year," G. Madhavan Nair, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said in an interview.
"Only few countries have capabilities like us to access space all by themselves ... we would like to sort of maintain our leadership position in some areas, entering into space commerce is one of them," he said by telephone.
The space agency is now collaborating with a number of countries, including Israel, on a project to carry an ultra-violet telescope in an Indian satellite within a year.
It is also building a tropical weather satellite with France and collaborating with Japan on disaster management from space. In January this year, ISRO launched an advanced Israeli reconnaissance satellite capable of taking images through cloud cover or at night, inviting criticism from India's leftist parties, saying it would harm relations with Iran.
Newspapers wrote editorial about India's growing ties with Israel, but the ISRO chairman said the arrangement with Israel was purely commercial.
"If someone comes to me and wants me to launch a satellite intended for peaceful application and exploration of space etc, we are not against that," Nair told Reuters from ISRO's headquarters in Bangalore. Iran was also receiving data from an Indian satellite and using it for all the application they require, Nair said.
India is eager to launch foreign satellites from its own space station under a commercial agreement and keen to compete with the United States, Russia, China and the European Space Agency to make at least $70 million a year from launches, Nair said. Experts, however, said India was only beginning to make "modest inroads" in a satellite launch market that runs into billions of dollars every year.
"India has to focus more on space research because relevance of countries in the 21st century will be determined by the way they can harness space as a medium," said C.
Uday Bhaskar, former director of New Delhi's Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. India has launched 10 remote sensing satellites since 1998, has several broadcast satellites in space to control 170 transponders and also launched light-weight satellites for Belgium, Germany, Korea, Japan and France.
"We would like to develop a launch vehicle and also make satellite data available to many countries," Nair added.
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