A fully integrated GSLV Mk II inside the ISRO Vehicle Assembly Building, Sriharikota. Credit: ISRO
- The Department of Space hopes to conduct two Gaganyaan test vehicle launches, five launches of the PSLV, two launches of the GSLV and two launches of the new SSLV.
- These missions will deploy the Chandrayaan 3, IDRSS-1, IRNSS-1J, EOS-6/OceanSat-3, TDS-01, Aditya L1, EOS-2/MicroSat-2A, and the Global 5, 6, 7 and 8 missions.
- The department hopes to generate Rs 219.14 crore in revenue by providing commercial launch services, and has asked for Rs 1,500 crore more than it did in the revised budget last year.
- NSIL has been slow to productionise the PSLV, GSLV and GSLV Mk II launch vehicles, and its budget outlay has been reduced this year after its capitalisation last year.
Last year, as part of my work with the Takshashila Institution, we submitted comments to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology based on the Union budget document in 2021. I am hoping to do something similar with this article.
There are two documents that I refer to while writing this:
1. Notes on Demands for Grants 2022-2023: This is how the Department of Space asks the Government of India for money for the work it needs to do in the forthcoming financial year.
2. Outcome Budget 2022-2023: This is what the Department of Space is saying it will do with the money allocated in the budget.
The Department of Space hopes to conduct two Gaganyaan test vehicle launches, five launches of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), two launches of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and two launches of the new Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV).
All these activities are for the period between March 2022 and April 2023, amounting, in all, to 11 launches for the financial year.
(Note: The GSLV was previously called the GSLV Mk II. While the Mk II and Mk III launch vehicles are numbered in sequential fashion, they have different designs and engine configurations.)
The expectation is that these missions will deploy the Chandrayaan 3 mission onboard a GSLV Mk III rocket; the IDRSS-1 and the IRNSS-1J missions onboard the GSLV; the EOS-6/OceanSat-3, the TDS-01 and the Aditya L1 missions onboard the PSLV; and the EOS-2/MicroSat-2A and the Global 5, 6, 7 and 8 missions onboard the SSLV.
Two of the five satellites planned to fly onboard PSLV missions in 2022-2023 are unknown, as of now.
Many of these missions were to be launched much earlier, and have been delayed. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has a backlog of satellites to be launched. And the way in which we use our launch pads also means it will be difficult (i.e. time-consuming) to prepare them to use these different launch vehicles one after another.
Yet these efforts are important. The Department of Space hopes to generate a revenue of Rs 219.14 crore by providing commercial launch services. To execute them, the department has asked for about Rs 1,500 crore more than it did in the revised budget last year.
Next, there are a number of private space companies setting up to build spaceflight subsystems in India. In its programmes, ISRO had suggested that we need more space applications companies. But the outcome figures from ISRO are not encouraging.
ISRO has targeted to earn a revenue of Rs 11 crore from data products. For this, it hopes to host about 5 lakh data and value-added products and target 28,000 unique users, and for which it has asked for an amount greater than the revised budget estimate last year by Rs 100 crore.
Next, the Department of Space has made requests for money under the head of ‘space sciences’. This includes some ambitious missions, like Chandrayaan 3 and Aditya L1, but also includes some of the research that the Department of Space has sponsored. And this request is actually a Rs 5 crore decrease from the revised budget last year.
The Government of India wants ISRO to work on research projects and let NewSpace India, Ltd. and to let non-governmental private entities take care of the operational burden of ISRO. If the government is to do this, I think an increase of the ‘space science’ research budget is the way forward.
I am also happy that the Department of Space has asked for more money this year for Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, but the quantum of increase requested is only Rs 40 crore. This, while ISRO is involved in resource-intensive projects like quantum communication. (PRL is also the cradle of the Indian space programme.) So if we want more research from ISRO, I think the Department of Space must ask for more money.
The Indian National Satellite System, better known as INSAT, is another confusing head. We are not sure how much money the Department of Space is spending to acquire new orbital slots, keeping satellites in orbital slots, etc. The GSLV and GSLV Mk III rockets are being used for other, important endeavours like the Chandrayaan lunar mission, navigational satellite launches and data-relay satellite launches – whereas we depend on the Ariane V rocket to launch our own communication satellites, including the INSATs.
I wonder if our shift to the demand-driven production of satellites will further slow the speed with which we build out our GSLV fleet. We also have to contend with the loss of a GSLV in 2021.
Next, NewSpace India, Ltd. (NSIL) has been slow to productionise the PSLV, and it also needs to step up the productionisation of the GSLV and GSLV Mk III launch vehicles. NSIL’s budget outlay has also been reduced this year after its capitalisation last year. It received Rs 44 crore more than what it had asked for last year.
It is unclear why the budgetary support has been reduced even as the NSIL tries to take on the operational workload of ISRO.
Finally, the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre, or IN-SPACe, has asked for Rs 33 crore, which seems like a good first step. This year, the Department of Space seems focused on building out the space-sector regulator.
This article was first published in the author’s newsletter and has been republished here with permission.
Pradeep Mohandas is a technical writer based in Pune. He is a space enthusiast.