‘Launch of US satellites may not be one-off affair’

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Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh), June 22 (IANS) The launch by India of satellites belonging to American companies Terra Bella – a Google company – and Planet Labs on Wednesday need not be an one-time affair, space agency officials said.

“We are in discussions with Planet Labs and other companies for the launch of their satellites,” S. Rakesh, Director, ISRO Propulsion Centre and Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Antrix Corporation told reporters here.

Antrix Corporation is the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

On Wednesday, an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) put into orbit 20 satellites including Terra Bella’s SkySat Gen2-1, twelve of the Planet Lab’s Dove Satellites, each weighing 4.7 kg, and also the main cargo India’s own Cartosat satellite.

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The 110 kg SkySat Gen2-1 belonging to Terra Bella, is a small earth imaging satellite capable of capturing sub-metre resolution imagery and high definition video.

Both the companies have plans to launch a series of satellites.

With the earth observation satellites going down in size globally, the ISRO has been reducing the size of its earth observation satellites, said A.S.Kiran Kumar, Chairman, ISRO.

“We can’t take the private company’s approach. There has to be certain minimum requirements for our government needs,” he added.

Queried about ISRO five year plan for launch of satellites, Kumar said as per estimation around 70 satellites are needed to be put into orbit.

Currently, there are 34 satellites in orbit comprising communication, earth observation, navigation and space science satellites.

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When asked about the need for a third launch pad to increase the launch frequency, Kumar said the space agency is building a new vehicle/rocket assembly building that would speed up the assembling of rockets.

“Once the existing bottlenecks are removed and if there is a need for new facilities we will go for that,” Kumar added.

According to him, the next PSLV rocket will put into orbit a weather monitoring and forecasting satellite Scatsat.

He said the South East Asian satellite built by India is likely to be launched between December 2016-March 2017.

On India’s plans to have a space station of its own, Kumar said it depends on the long term plan of ISRO, the funding received from the government and other aspects.

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