PSLV is the workhorse rocket for India and the cheapest launch platform available in the world

South American countries look towards India for low cost satellite launches

Experts have indicated to Financial Express Online that in the South American Region, India could become a strategic partner to boost its space program at low cost and the cooperation in the Space sector could be used various areas including climatic and telecommunications.

China has been offering its competitive satellite construction and launch services to various South American countries, however, countries in the region are looking towards India’s Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for launching and developing their satellites. The fact that India offers credible economically feasible satellite launches is a big attraction for these countries.

Experts have indicated to Financial Express Online that in the South American Region, India could become a strategic partner to boost its space program at low cost and the cooperation in the Space sector could be used various areas including climatic and telecommunications. The latest to express their interest in working with ISRO in developing and researching in the Space sector comes from Paraguay and Costa Rica.

Vice President Venkaiah Naidu speaking to journalists onboard at the end of his two nation visit to Paraguay and Costa Rica, said that, “Besides other areas, these countries are also keen on working with ISRO for not only launching satellites but in research as well as developing their satellites. ”

The interest from these countries has grown greatly after the successful Mars mission a few years ago wherein the ISRO proved that it is capable of achieving even inter-planetary missions in a cost-effective manner, in addition to having a reliable program.

Though countries including Venezuela and Bolivia have launched their first satellites in cooperation with China, Paraguay which does not maintain official relations with China created its Space Agency in 2014 and in 2018 defined its space policy.

With the global space market expected to expand in South America and Africa ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation Ltd., will soon be unable to handle huge demands, therefore, it is important that commercial players such as Alpha Designs and Ananth Technologies should be encouraged to help assist manufacturing satellites for countries in the Latin American region.

Sharing her views with Financial Express Online, Dr Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, Head, Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative, Observer Research Foundation (ORF) said that, “These two companies have worked with ISRO in recent years and the Indian Space Agency along with Antrix can help establish a more proactive presence in Latin America.”

“The region of course remains important to India for a number of different reasons including pursuing India’s membership to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and other international negotiations like on climate change and terrorism,” the distinguished fellow at ORF added.

According to her, India should also be interested in Brazil’s old rocket complex on its Atlantic coast. The Alcantarra base is about 140 miles south off earth’s equator (Situated on the equator means that the fuel that is required for launch is far less), making it an ideal location for launching satellites.

“Major aerospace companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin Have been quite interested in the space but India must not lose time in this regard.”

Paraguay is looking at ISRO to possibly cooperate in resource mapping; earth observation data sharing; manufacturing and launching satellites on commercial basis. The South American nation is also expected to collaborate on training on manufacturing small satellite, and, specific space technology applications including natural resources assessment and disaster management support.

Some of the countries from the region including Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have already reached out to the Indian agency for help in developing and building satellites. Chile and Colombia have in recent years put their satellites in orbit.

The Brazilian Space Agency (AEB), which has been working with China for its Space programme has through its Ground stations in Alcantara and Cuiaba been providing tracking support for Indian satellites (Chandrayaan-I, Megha Tropiques, MOM, and ASTROSAT) on a commercial basis.

With its huge research capability, ISRO should look to assist other countries in similar launches of satellites, as the commercial engagements in the spatial sector could produce long-term strategic linkages and India should be mindful of those advantages.

President Ramnath Kovind is expected to travel to Bolivia and Chile in the region end of this month where among other sectors; Space Cooperation will be topping the agenda of talks with leaders on the country.

Though China had launched the first Bolivia’s first communication satellite in 2013, as has been reported by Financial Express Online, Bolivian Space Agency (ABE) concluded a MoU on space cooperation with ISRO. Under this the Indian agency will help to conduct preliminary studies of establishing a ground station in Bolivia for supporting ISRO’s space operations. ISRO will also depute its experts in the field of agriculture and forestry for giving lectures and interacting with officials.

Building relations with Bolivia, a small country is critical for India as it has huge reserves of Lithium, which India would need for its lithium batteries for the Electric Vehicles.

For launching its first homemade palm-sized satellite, the University of Chile got a ride onboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C38 rocket recently. As an update, the faculty of the university is in talks with professors at IIT-Madras for doing joint missions.

Though, Chile does not have a space programme and no space agency, the country’s air force has some resources to buy a satellite — mostly for earth-observation purposes, which is custom made. Taking advantages of their geographic position, the University of Chile has started their own space programme and are doing their own research with low resources. The University is focusing on nano-satellite technology, and are developing their skills in the subject, and do research.

The University which is working with IIT-Madras is hoping to get a ride on the PSLV in 2019 for a launch of 3U Cubesats. These nano satellites are for space research and scientific in nature.

The National Aerospace Research and Development Commission of Peru has signed a cooperation agreement with the Indian space agency which will help in training in the interpretation and dissemination of data (satellite images); support the implementation of an astronomical observatory in Moquegua; and in conducting experiments in the atmosphere/ionosphere sounding rockets.