India's space agency will outsource the manufacture of two navigation satellites, Navic to a consortium of private firms, its first major attempt to share its expertise in satellite making technology that would potentially allow the country to emerge as a major global hub for producing satellites.
In June, the space agency opened up consultations with its partners to allow them to form a consortium, absorb the satellite making technology and build satellites first for the space agency's requirements before looking at a global satellite opportunity. Isro will also share the knowhow for building ground equipment that captures satellite data and process them for specific local applications.
The space agency will hand hold the private consortium in building the two Navic satellites, being built as spares to India's navigation constellation.
"The consortium will have companies with expertise in each segment such as electrical, software and others, required for building a satellite. So far the industry has been associated with developing some of the components for the satellite," said ISRO Satellite Centre's Director M Annadurai, but declined to name them. An official announcement is expected next week.
For India, space is emerging as the next growth opportunity as there is a global glut of private satellite companies who are looking for outside expertise to build hundreds of small satellites and launching them on rocket.
"Whenever there is a large production of satellites, there will also be requirement for subsystems. There are many industries which can produce for global companies," said A S Kiran Kumar, chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) in an interview in August.
India's PSLV rocket has emerged as the preferred vehicle to launch smaller satellites from global firms such as Spire and PlanetLabs
So far, Isro's satellite centre based in Bengaluru has built over 80 satellites - for earth observation and communication, over the last four decades. In the next five years, it needs over 80 satellites to meet the country's demands, which Isro says, would be built by the industry than expanding its own infrastructure.
In 2017, Isro plans to build and launch 12 homegrown satellites from its spaceport in Sriharikota. At the same time, it would launch dozens of micro and nano satellites for global customers on the PSLV rocket.
Isro also has set January 20 as the date to launch its heaviest rocket - GSLV Mk-III, which once proven would be the vehicle for the country's manned mission, currently pending approval from the government.
"We are going to have the pad abort test for the HSP (Human Spaceflight Programme). Our milestone is going to continue for every week or every once in two weeks," said Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre director K Sivan.