On 18 July 2018, the U. R. Rao Satellite Centre (URSC), formerly known as the ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC), signed a pact with private industry players in India for the Assembly, Integration & Testing (AIT) of satellites.
The pact mentions three private industry players: Alpha Design Technologies and its consortium partners, Bharat Electronics (BHEL), and Tata Advanced Systems. URSC has stated that this pact is part of capacity building initiatives by India’s space agency Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which seeks greater private industry participation.
According to ISRO’s preliminary request, each contract will last three years, with the option of extending it for another two years depending on performance. The AIT workload will be distributed amongst the three private parties, and will include the development of satellite subsystems.
ISRO has stated its hopes that this will pave the way for end-to-end satellite development by the private industry. Presently, the agency aims to develop 12 to 18 satellites per year; reports have stated that the successful vendors will collectively be working on 27 satellites out of the 36 or more satellites that ISRO is projecting for the next three years.
These contracts were awarded after nearly a year, with URSC issuing the request in September 2017. At that time, the request saw 60 interested participants, which was narrowed down to 13 potential vendors by December 2017.
The three selected private industry players are not new to ISRO. Alpha Design Technologies and its partners, representing the only privately-owned party, was awarded a contract for the AIT of two satellites in 2016. BHEL, meanwhile, is a company owned by the Indian government and has worked closely with ISRO and Indian defense agencies for research, development and manufacture of related components and subsystems. The only newcomer to the group is Tata Advanced Systems, which has so far focused mainly on aviation and defense, although ISRO has previously worked with other Tata Group subsidiaries.
Notably, two companies heavily involved with ISRO – Godrej and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), both of which are involved in ISRO’s rocket development – will not be involved in the AIT project although both expressed had earlier expressed interest in the project.