Small satellites to populate skies: Saraswat

Chennai, Sep 15 (IANS) Niti Aayog member VK Saraswat said on Tuesday that the launch of small satellites will be a dominant factor in the global space sector, as around 7,000 satellites are expected to be up in the skies by 2027.

He said that market researchers predict remarkable growth in the launch of smallsat. Over the last five years, 190 such satellites have been launched globally.

In order to bag a share in the small satellites (smallsat) launch market, ISRO is developing a small rocket with a capacity to carry satellites weighing 500-700 kg to low earth orbit (LEO).

According to him, low-cost launch of smallsats to LEO will be the focus of global satellite communications.

Saraswat was speaking at the International Space Conference and Exhibition ‘Ushering the New Era in Indian Space Sector' organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in association with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Antrix Corporation Limited, and supported by NewSpace India Limited (NSIL).

The Indian government should also consider setting up a national fund to promote entrepreneurship in the space sector, as was done by the US space agency NASA and the European Space Agency, he said.

The NITI Aayog member said that over the next five years the number of smallsats to be launched annually is expected to touch 700.

In all, about 7,000 smallsats are expected to be launched between 2018 and 2027 at a total cost of $38 billion, Saraswat said.

He said the smallsat revolution was possible due to the new technological platforms, reduced lifecycle, up-to-date technology, and other factors.

The concept of constellation formation in the launch of smallsats and shorter development time may convince investors to back such ventures.

However, there are challenges in the form of telemetry, tracking, micro-propulsion and the objections from the defence sector as large numbers of smallsats may hinder the operation of military satellites.

On the trends in the space sector, Saraswat said miniaturisation of satellites, low-cost technologies, reusable systems (rockets), artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, and others.

Saraswat also said there is a need to set up an ‘Office of Space Commerce' within the ISRO to estimate the size of the market for space services and also an independent think tank to analyse the government's policies in the sector.

He said there should be clear demarcation of space and defence activities. Restraining space commerce activities under the garb of national security will hold back the country from expanding space products and services, the NITI Aayog member said.



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