The Government of Kerala is in the process of setting up an aerospace park and is also targeting development and manufacturing related to space projects in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). The project aims to develop an ecosystem, including setting up a large manufacturing base, for aerospace components and vehicles in the long-run.
The government has allocated 20 acres near Technocity, a state-run IT park in Thiruvananthapuram, for the project. It has already allocated five acres to the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), a part of Isro, to develop common facilities. Aerospace and spacecraft component manufacturers and innovation companies can set up their facilities either on their own or with the government-built infrastructure to start production.
The government is in talks with Isro for an agreement, under which the latter may offer guidance and also the potential of a buy-back order, which could enable the companies to start production.
The move comes at a time when Isro is shifting the majority of its basic manufacturing activities to the private industry so that it can focus on actual research and development for larger projects, including the first indigenous human spaceflight mission. The organisation has been identifying industries and consortium to produce components and even complete rockets and satellites for it. With precision being paramount in manufacturing such products, Isro would focus on monitoring quality and ensuring that the products meet set parameters.
"This is the place where the space missions of India originated, but unfortunately there are no private industry related to the sector in the state. Besides, several well-experienced top brains retiring from the units of Isro in the state are currently sitting in some colleges due to lack of opportunities to further utilise their expertise. The state should originate some initiative to utilise them and that is the aim of the aerospace park," said M C Dathan, former director of VSSC and the scientific advisor to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at present.
Isro has four centres in Thiruvananthapuram, including VSSC, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), Isro Inertial Systems Unit (IISU) and Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST).
Several major component manufacturers have shown interest in setting up their units at the aerospace park. The state government is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Isro to take the project forward in the next one or two months, Dathan said. There is also a plan to develop infrastructure for industries working on applications utilising remote sensing and navigation data, among other things, provided by Isro for use in day-to-day life. The government is also expected to come up with a larger facility for manufacturing larger products in the sector.
On Saturday, Airbus signed an MoU with the Kerala Start Up Mission to assist start-ups in the state in the aerospace field. Airbus will start an innovation centre as part of Airbus BizLab Accellerator in Thiruvananthapuram, which will run under the Bengaluru-based Airbus BizLab centre of the company. Bengaluru is one of the four BizLabs in the world, while others are located in France's Toulouse, Madrid and Germany's Hamburg. Selected start-ups will be trained for six months in the BizLab. It will also conduct training by bringing in experts in the field of defence and aerospace.