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Private Players In US Space Industry Worried By Cost Effective ISRO Launch Vehicles

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The parturient private space industry in the United States has expressed concern over the large scale use of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) vehicles for putting American satellites into orbit, stating that it was hard to compete against the low cost boosters being churned out by the Indian agency.

The case is attracting much attention in recent days, with corporations involved in privatizing space exploration hoping to induce the American lawmakers into making special provisions for them.

The complaints are based on the fact that the ISRO vehicles are far more affordable than anything their US based, private counterparts can provide. As such allowing large scale use, the corporations fear, will be dangerous for the health of the still young, private space industry.

Speaking on the topic, Elliot Holokauahi Pulham, CEO of Space Foundation, said

I think the concern about using Indian boosters is not so much the transfer of sensitive technology to a nation that is a fellow democracy, but rather whether the Indian launches are subsidised by the government to adegree that other market actors would be priced out of the market.

The corporations are also alleging that the Indian agency was able to provide these vehicles at competitive prices because of subsidies by the Indian government.

On the topic of US agencies using a foreign, government subsidised agency to propel its satelites into space, Eric Stallmer, President of Commercial Spaceflight Federation said,

Such policy runs counter to many national priorities and undermines the work and investment that has been made by the government andindustry to ensure the health of the US commercial space launch industrial base.

Okay. So its more like a question of keeping the business — and the profits — in the family.

The main issue that is coming here is due to the fact that satelite manufacturers are making their wares faster than launch capabilities can be arranged by the private players in the US space industry.

And obviously, a satelite on the ground is just sitting ducks. Which is why manufacturers are prefering to launch them with foreign help, rather than wait around for launch capabilities to be attained.

Commenting on the topic, Stallmer said,

Currently, the Indian launch vehicle PSLV has a sweet spot and has the capability of launching some of these satellitesright now in a timely manner. We don’t want to see US launches going overseas by any means, whether it’s to India, Russia or whomever else. But right now, from the satellite, you know, producers and manufacturers, they need to get their assets up in the sky as quick as possible.

He also said that while the policy of allowing Indian boosters to fill in for made in US ones should be tolerated for now, the strategy should be phased out as soon as possible.

The lawn makers meanwhile seem to be in agreement with the sentiment. Congressman Brian Babin, Chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Space said,

India has stepped in and offered to fill, in part, this demand and is launching smaller satellites on their PSLV vehicle. The administration has provided a number of export waivers on a case-by-case basis for these launches, in part, because India is becoming a strategic ally in South Asia.

Meanwhile, the general sentiment among both lawmakers as well as the corporates in the country is that launches on Indian vehicles should continue to be considered on a case-by-case waiver basis only for US payloads — at least until US’s launch capabilities catch up with its satellite manufacturing.


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