The Final Countdown

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Is India’s space programme just an ego trip? No, says a new report put out jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), consultancy Deloitte and Isro’s commercial arm Antrix Corp. There is not only vast potential in it to solve India’s social problems, there are enough revenues to be generated to defray the expenses incurred. 

The good that Isro can do is sure to live long after today’s efforts. Low-cost broadcast, telecom and meteorological services are just the start. The Big Idea is ‘inclusive growth’ via the use of satellites to reach millions of remote Indians. Taking direct-to-home TV to villages is one aspect of this, even as web-linked Village Resource Centres are upgraded to offer agricultural and weather advisories, apart from disaster support, tele-medicine and tele-education. 

All this, on an outlay of only 0.14 per cent of GDP. India’s space budget for 2010-11 is Rs 5,778 crore. Antrix’s earning potential, says the report, is no less. This is because much of the spending is aimed at gaining a competitive edge in the global market for space products and services. There is money in the commercial exploitation of Isro’s 254 patents, 35 copyrights and 10 trademarks. But the big money is in making and launching satellites for other countries: Isro has done 25 such launches already. In 2009, this drew 36 per cent of Antrix’s Rs 592 crore revenues; 56 per cent came from the leasing of transponders, with the rest coming from exports of satellite components and sales of remote sensing data. In the future, Antrix expects the satellite business to boom. Making these for others should earn $60 million over the next two-three years. And once Isro succeeds with manned missions to outer space (cost: Rs 12,400 crore over several years), Antrix even hopes to flag off space tourism. And any other allied services you imagine.