India studying China's offer to launch satellites

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Sat Nov 20 20:09:32 MST 1999

20 November 1999
India studying China's offer to launch satellites
By Prakash Nanda
The Times of India News Service
NEW DELHI: India has an open mind on the Chinese offer to launch India's
INSAT-3 satellites through its ``Long March'' rockets at a competitive
price. ``We can consider the Chinese offer, provided Beijing meets all our
requirements. We will be guided by the factors of reliability and
availability,'' S Rangarajan, director of the Satellite Communication
Programme, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), told The Times of
India on Friday.
On Wednesday, Liu Zhixiong, a senior Chinese official who is participating
in the ongoing second ministerial conference on space applications in the
Asia-Pacific region here, had said his country could provide launching
service to the INSAT satellites at a price cheaper than Europe's
Arianespace, which has so far put into orbit eight Indian communication
satellites, charges about $ 70 million per launch. It has been already
decided that Arainespace will launch the next two satellites - INSAT 3A and
INSAT 3B - in the next five years.
Any consideration of the Chinese offer, Rangarajan said, would be influenced
by China's track record in sending up satellites similar to the INSAT
series. ``After all, the cost of launching a satellite is almost double the
cost of its production. Therefore, we have to study their proven capability.
We simply cannot afford any launch failure.''
The second factor is the flexibility in making available launch time. ``We
will decide the time of launching and the country offering to launch our
satellites has to agree to that. If the country making the offer gives a
long waiting time, it will not be to our benefit because late launching
means late commercialisation of our satellite programmes. That would mean we
will be losing money,'' Rangarajan said.
Indian space capabilities are available commercially to international
companies through Antrix Corporation of the department of space: Indian
Remote Sensing (IRS) satellite data are taken by the US, Dubai, Japan,
Germany and the Republic of Korea, and transponders on INSAT-2E are leased
In fact, if India develops a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)
for launching 2,500-kg satellites, the dependence on others for launching
INSAT satellites will be lessened. The first GSLV test flight is planned in
mid-2000. As of now, India has developed and commissioned Polar Satellite
Launch Vehicle(PSLV) for launching 1,200-kg IRS satellites.
There is yet another factor that will have to be considered in deciding on
the Chinese offer: Indian scientists will need to familiarise themselves
with the Chinese launching pads. According to ISRO sources, Indian
scientists are more comfortable with Arianespace because of the long
association with its launch base in French Guinea.

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