Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday that India’s space programme must be made available to developing nations, and the SAARC countries in particular, minutes after witnessing the successful launch of five foreign satellites on board the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) workhorse PSLV rocket.
Spelling out his vision for the Indian space sector at ISRO’s first commercial satellite launch in over a year, and the first since the BJP government came to power, Modi said, “India is rooted in the age old ethos of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family). India’s space programme is driven by the vision of service to humankind and not by the desire for power. We must therefore share the fruits of our technological advancement with those who do not have the expertise, and our neighbours in particular.”
He said, “Today I ask our space community to make plans for developing a SAARC satellite, a satellite that provides a full range of applications and services to all our neighbours. There is a lot of poverty in the SAARC nations and we need scientific solutions for this. It will be beneficial for the development of all the countries in the region.”
The PM, who was on a two-day visit to space facilities at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, witnessed the successful launch of five foreign satellites on the PSLV-C23 rocket from the space centre on Monday.
The PSLV-C23 carried a 714-kg French Earth Observation Satellite SPOT-7 as its main payload with a 14-kg satellite called AISAT of Germany, two 15-kg satellites from Canada CAN-X4 and CAN-X5, and a 7-kg Singapore satellite called VELOX-1 as piggyback payload. The five satellites were launched under commercial arrangements that ANTRIX (ISRO’s commercial arm) entered with foreign agencies.
“The PSLV has launched 67 satellites, including 40 satellites from 19 foreign countries. All the satellites launched today are from developed countries. Truly this is a global endorsement of India’s space capabilities,’’ said Modi.
He said the Indian space programme was an indigenous one that had grown despite international hurdles. The programme remains one of the most cost effective space programmes in the world, he said.
“Our journey in space has come a long way from a humble beginning. I have seen photographs of a rocket being transported on a cycle. It amazed me to see these pictures. Even today our space programme is the most cost effective in the world. I have heard the story of our Mars mission costing less than the Hollywood film Gravity,’’ Modi said.
“Continued progress in space must remain our national mission. We must develop more advanced satellites with higher imaging powers. India has the potential to be a space service provider to the world,’’ he said.
Modi said the success of the Indian space programme is linked to deep historical roots beginning in the Upanishads. “India has a rich heritage of science and technology including the field of space. Our understanding of the cosmos is ancient,’’ he said. “Technology is central to development. It is an important instrument of national programme,’’ he said.
Modi also asked scientists to extend space technologies to map land records in the country on a regular basis to bring about greater accuracy in land records which are often riddled with problems which affect the poor.
“Many think space technology to be for the elite. That it has nothing to do with the common man. This is a big mistake. We need to change this perception. Ultimately space science helps bring change in the life of the common man,’’ Modi said in a speech that was longer than the 20-minute launch satellite launch on board the PSLV-C23 after a countdown that started at 9.52 am.
ISRO’s commercial launch on Monday comes nearly 16 months after it launched six small foreign satellites on board the PSLV C-20 in February 2013. ISRO has so far put 35 foreign satellites in space on the PSLV on the basis of commercial agreements with other countries.
The space agency is banking on the realisation of its GSLV heavy lift rocket programme over the next couple of years to get into the big league of launching heavy communication satellites weighing more than 2000 kg.
On his visit to SHAR space center at Sriharikota Modi was briefed about the GSLV programme and was taken on a visit to a GSLV Mk III vehicle assembly building.