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7 instruments fewer rather than 2 years later

Murthi recalled how interest in ISRO’s commercial launches had risen in the wake of the success of the Chandrayaan moon mission.

Written by Amitabh Sinha
New Delhi | September 25, 2014 1:21:59 am

Mangalyaan could have carried instruments of a total weight up to 24 kg. ISRO had initially identified 12 instruments, according to former chairman G Madhavan Nair. But the testing of some of these instruments could have taken time and ISRO could have missed the opportunity to send its mission in 2013. The next opportune moment would have come at least two years later.

“Such was the determination to use this (2013) slot that ISRO decided to go with only five instruments, even though some space on the spacecraft was unutilised. And it has not been a bad decision. It was important to tell the world early that we also belong there,” said Nair.

It has been the most hurriedly launched Mars mission ever. The government clearance and the sanction of money came barely a year before the launch, though preparations at ISRO had been going on for some time.

Many questions had been raised about the technological need to undertake such a mission and whether it would be worth the money spent, even if it was only a fraction of what other countries have spent on their Mars missions. ISRO today can assert the money was wisely spent.

The Mars mission is likely to further establish India as one of the most reliable and cost-effective players in launching spacecrafts. ISRO already caters to a healthy market of global commercial satellite launches.

“Commercial space market depends very heavily on the brand. Agencies that have the pedigree, demonstrated use of new and complex technology, consistency of performance, and cost advantage are the ones which get clients for commercial launches. The success of the mission with further establish India as a formidable player in the international space market,” said K R Sridhar Murthi, former executive director of Antrix, ISRO’s marketing arm.

Murthi recalled how interest in ISRO’s commercial launches had risen in the wake of the success of the Chandrayaan moon mission. “Chandrayaan was surely a turning point. A number of new clients, both government and private, started exploring the capabilities of ISRO. Many of these inquiries were converted into actual business,” he said.

“Purely scientific missions demonstrate the capability of the agency. It builds the brand,” he added. “Commercial launches, on the other hand, bring in the money that is necessary for more complex and advanced scientific missions. Then the two reinforce each other,” he said.

“Very few people actually expected Chandrayaan to deliver something big in scientific terms. It confirmed the presence of water. We should not be surprised if Mars also delivers something very significant,” said Madhavan Nair.

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