On June 30, India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) took to the skies from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, loaded with four foreign satellites from France, Germany, Canada and Singapore. What’s more, they achieved this under an impressively low budget.
The satellite launch industry brings in a few pennies annually, to say the least. According to the US Satellite Industry Association, in 2012 the profits from this industry totaled a whopping $2.2 billion, and India is keen to increase its presence in this market by providing services at a comparatively modest price.
“India has the potential to be the launch service provider of the world and must work towards this goal,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India’s low-cost space technology is certainly something to admire; last year India launched its Mangalyaan satellite to Mars at a total cost of $75 million, a fraction of NASA’s $671 million Mars mission, Maven, that was launched just days later. The budget technology has been lauded by Modi who boasted that the venture was cheaper than the $100 million box office hit movie Gravity.
“I have heard about the film Gravity. I am told the cost of sending an Indian rocket to space is less than the money invested in making the Hollywood movie,” he added.
How do they keep the prices down? India has been frugally copying existing space technology and adapting it for its own needs, and also has a bounty of skilled engineers that earn significantly less than western counterparts.
Modi said India’s space program is something to be proud of given its achievements in spite of “great international pressure and hurdles.”