An artist’s impression of Bellatrix-Chetak carrier rocket, the two-staged, nano-satellite launch vehicle developed by Bellatrix Aerospace, an Indian private space company

The aim is to get the vehicles off the assembly line faster than ever before and put more spacecraft into orbit

The pace of Indian space launches is hotting up. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has started scouting for additional manufacturers for most of the hardware of its launch vehicles.

The aim is to get the vehicles off the assembly line faster than ever before and put more spacecraft into orbit for continuing services and new uses, according its officials.

The launch vehicle programme quickly needs multiple suppliers for many items that are already sourced from industry, according to K. Sivan, Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, which is the lead unit for ISRO’s three kinds of boosters.

The boosters are the light-lifting PSLV, the bigger GSLV-Mark II, and the new powerful one that is under trial — GSLV Mk III.

ISRO plans to have parallel vendors for all rocket hardware, starting with inter-stages and light alloy structures for the PSLV’s four stages, fuel tanks, and solid motors, among others. The latest search is for makers of payload fairings or the nose cone at the top of launchers.

The expanded base also is in line with ISRO’s plan to hand over production of entire rockets to an industry consortium by 2020. Dr. Sivan said, “Today we are talking of eight PSLVs, two GSLVs, and two GSLV-MkIII vehicles. Existing vendors cannot meet (the requirement of supplying) 12 sets of hardware with their present capabilities.”

The goal of 12 a year almost doubles ISRO’s current rate of launching satellites. Having multiple producers of same hardware “makes it easy for us and the present vendors,” he said.

Early this month, VSSC issued an expression of interest or invitation of proposals from industry for making payload fairings. The “PLF” or nose cone encases the satellite until it is released in space and shields its various instruments from shocks and disturbances during launch.

Big & Small Players

Defence aerospace company Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. has been providing the rocket fairings, apparently starting with four sets a year, and now stretched to six and eight. It will continue to provide them, Dr. Sivan added.

Around 90% of all launch vehicle inputs come from around 500 small to large industries from across the country, both in public and private sectors. Other manufacturing partners for rockets are Larsen & Toubro, Godrej & Boyce, Walchandnagar Industries, MTAR and Sri Venkateswara Aerospace, Hyderabad.

Material come from defence entity Midhani, and electronic items from Keltron, Centum of Bengaluru, and Data Patterns of Chennai.

“Ideally we want industry to take over the production of PSLVs at the earliest,” he said. For this, an exercise is on to cobble together a consortium from industries who already make rocket parts and provide raw material like composites and metals. An internal committee is drawing up a strategy.