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Isro spots a star in BEL, Alpha Design for assembling satellites

Public sector Bharat Electronics and private firm Alpha Design have been shortlisted by India’s space agency to assemble satellites as it looks to tap the industry to increase production and bridge the demand-supply gap for remote sensing and communication satellites in the country.

In March, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) had floated an expression of interest for vendors who can supply teams to assemble satellites and eventually absorb the satellite making technology to tap local as well as global demand. India requires around 45 large earth observation and communication satellites to meet the country’s need over the next five years.

In addition, the space agency says a global opportunity of over 5,000 small and micro satellites could be tapped and make India an outsourcing hub for satellites. India’s polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) has already been a preferred rocket for global agencies to hurl small and micro satellites into space.

Bharat Electronics managing director MV Gowtama confirmed that the company has been shortlisted along with another private vendor. An Isro source said Alpha Design is the second vendor.

BEL is taking a 30-acre plot in the aerospace park at Devanahalli, near the international airport in Bengaluru, to set up a unit for satellite integration, space electronics and unmanned systems. The public sector electronics major already builds the data links for strategic satellites.

BEL director marketing Anandi Ramalingam said the firm would start with supplying around 100 people for building satellites, absorb technologies and eventually look at delivering payloads, besides taking up full-scale satellite production in its campus.

Isro chairman K Sivan told ET in a recent interview that the space agency is looking at increasing launches of as much as 18 satellites in a year.

“We need 45 satellites. If I have to do in the rate we built over the last years, it will take many years and the demand for new satellites will come. We are now increasing our launches. We are looking at 18 satellites a year. We are taking two approaches – going to industry to help us manufacture satellites and we are asking our people to work in two shifts, so their productivity increases. This is being done without compromising on the quality,” Sivan said.

“We have begun offering work packages so that they can do sub-assembly and systems. The industry still has not matured where we can transfer the full satellite technology. It will take three years for that. We want to help industry gain expertise before building satellites on their own. The quality and precision requirement is intense,” he said.

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