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Friday, October 22, 2021

ISRO’s commercial arm to launch its first demand-based communication satellite next year

The entire satellite capacity on-board GSAT-24 will be leased to DTH services provider Tata Sky, NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) has said

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru |
Updated: October 2, 2021 7:12:37 pm
NewSpace India Limited (File Photo)

NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the newly created commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), will put together its first demand-based communication satellite for the satellite-based DTH television services provider Tata Sky.

The GSAT-24, a 4,000 kg class Ku-band satellite with all transponders dedicated for DTH services, will be launched by the Ariane-5 from Europe’s Arianespace early next year. “The entire satellite capacity on-board GSAT-24 will be leased to its committed customer M/s Tata Sky for meeting their DTH application needs,” an NSIL statement said Friday.

The satellite will be owned and operated by NSIL, which will also be the intermediary agency between ISRO, Arianespace and Tata Sky.

NSIL, which has been created to commercialise research work and capabilities of the ISRO, is looking to emerge as an Indian communications satellite operator by taking over ISRO satellites to provide DTH and broadband services to customers on demand.

In March this year, the officials of NSIL – incorporated in 2019 – had stated that two deals were in the pipeline with a DTH operator and a broadband service provider in India.

NSIL officials had said on March 12 that it will take over two communication satellites to be launched by ISRO and is in talks with the space department to take over ISRO’s fleet of communication satellites. “Shortly, NSIL will finalise requirements for new satellites in consultation with various users and start procuring, owning, launching and providing services, primarily in the communication sector. We are also in an advanced stage of discussion with DoS to take ownership of two new communication satellites,” NSIL Chairman and MD G Narayanan had stated.

“NSIL now has a much bigger responsibility of owning the satellites – which is identifying a satellite, getting it launched and owning it to provide services. This is a major service that NSIL is looking to offer. This will make us a kind of a satellite operator,” its Director (technical and strategy) D Radhakrishnan had said then.

The move is a shift from existing policy in which transponders on communication satellites are leased to customers like DTH service providers through ISRO’s existing controversial commercial arm Antrix Corporation which has now started taking a back seat. Antrix Corporation has previously courted controversies over deals in which satellites were dedicated to provide communication services for companies like the Bengaluru startup Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd.

In an ongoing legal battle with Indian authorities in the US, Devas Multimedia has alleged that NSIL has been created to replace Antrix Corporation in order to circumvent liabilities arising from compensation awards made against Antrix Corporation by international arbitration tribunals over a failed 2005 Devas Multimedia-Antrix satellite deal.

The move to get NSIL to own and operate ISRO’s communication satellites is an effort to maximise profits from satellite launches and to allow ISRO to focus on “advanced research and development”, NSIL officials have said.

“Earlier we were supply-driven and now we are demand-driven and the basic thing is that there should be an identified customer who is going to fully utilise the satellite capacity and there should be good profitability. We want to ensure maximum utilisation of a satellite,” the NSIL official said.

Narayanan said the new firm is also in talks with the space department to take over all existing ISRO communication satellites. “We are in discussions to take over all 26 of them,” he said. While the demand for satellites for DTH services comes from providers like TataSky, Sun Direct and so on, the demand for satellites for broadband services comes from Indian telecom operators, NSIL officials said.

After successful fulfilment of its first deal for launch of a commercial satellite on February 28, 2021 – the Brazilian Amazonia-1 satellite on board ISRO’s PSLV rocket – NSIL will have four more commercial launches over the next two years, NSIL had said in March. The company has been provided a budget of Rs 700 crore for the next five years to emerge as a premier space services provider, the officials said.

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