India to launch 2 space missions every month

Bengaluru : India is ready to launch two space missions every month, with 31 launches slated to take place over the coming 16 months, a top official said on Sunday.

"The space agency has a tight schedule ahead, as we are targeting nine launches over the next five months and 22 missions from February to December in 2019, aiming at two per month," the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Chairman K. Sivan told reporters here.

In all, ISRO is looking at 31 space missions in a span of 16 months starting September 2018 to December next year.

"We have also identified 50 satellites that will be launched over the coming three years," Sivan said on the sidelines of an event here to unveil a statue (bust) of the father of India's space programme, Vikram Sarabhai, on his 99th birth anniversary.

The next mission by ISRO will launch two commercial satellites from Britain in September onboard Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-42 rocket.

Among the key missions in the coming few months are the launches of GSAT-29 onboard Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk 3 D2 in October to facilitate internet to rural India, GSAT-11 on November 30 onboard Arianespace space agency's rocket from French Guiana on the north Atlantic coast of South America.

The space agency will be attempting its second lunar mission, "Chandrayaan-2", on January 3, after its first mission a decade ago in 2008.

Advanced satellites which can perform earth observation, ocean mapping etc will be launched over the coming year, Sivan said.

"We have also scheduled the launch of GSAT-20 in August next year, which along with the three other satellites, will help in expanding 100 Gbps (Giga bytes per second) of internet connectivity to rural India," he added.

In a first-of-its-kind initiative, ISRO will also be conducting a test flight in May-June next year of its new rocket, Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV).

With a cost one-tenth of that of a PSLV, and with a length of 34m, SSLV will be used to launch smaller satellites that weigh between 500-700kg.

"It will be an on-demand launcher, requiring minimum infrastructure, and can be readied for launch within 72 hours, as against a PSLV rocket which requires 45-60 days before the launch," Sivan added.

Once designed by mid-2019, the SSLV production will be taken over by the industry through ISRO's commercial arm Antrix, he added.

Through another demo flight next year, ISRO will test the reusability of a rocket by testing the landing capacity.

In a bid to step up its launching capacity, ISRO will outsource the making of PSLV rockets to Indian industry by next year, Sivan said.

"The maiden flight of the rocket made by Indian industry will be in 2019-20," he added.

The city-based space agency also plans to have a student satellite programme next year, inviting students to build their own satellites to be launched by ISRO.

It will also be setting up six incubation centres across the country to interact and promote startups in the space sector, Sivan added.