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ISRO's big scheme to send small rockets into Space

India’s space agency aims to create a consortium of companies to build and market a small rocket to launch low-weight satellites at lesser cost and within shorter durations, as it seeks to tap into burgeoning global demand for such services.

Led by Antrix Corp — the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation — the consortium will include engineering major Larsen & Toubro, Godrej Aerospace and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. The combine will help Isro build a small rocket capable of carrying 500 kilogram satellites into the lower earth orbit. “Antrix is working on a model to involve industry from the beginning.

Our aim is that one or two rockets will be launched by Isro, the industry should then make the rockets and launch satellites,” said K Sivan, chairman of Isro in an interview with ET. He said Isro has approached these companies and that “they are all interested”.

“The price of a satellite launch on this small rocket is expected to be less than one-fifth of the current launch costs,” Sivan added. The first development flight or launch of the rocket will be by 2019.

By involving companies such as L&T, Godrej and HAL, in the initial stages the space agency expects to improve the manufacturing process and bring down the cost of the rocket.

Typically, Isro takes around 45 days to assemble its workhorse the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). The smaller rocket, to be powered by a solid booster, is expected to be ready for launch in three days. It is being designed to place low-weight satellites in the low earth orbit of around 500 kilometres.

“We are looking at some disruptive technologies with this (rocket),” said Sivan.

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