PSLV C30 Take off. (Photo: ISRO)

First Private Sector-Built PSLV Likely By 2020, Says L&T

Indian Space Research Organisation has decided to make Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. and Larsen & Toubro Ltd. consortium partners for its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

It’s like a public-private participation in the space sector, according to Jayant Patil, wholetime director and head of defence business for L&T, India’s largest infrastructure company. R Madhavan, chairman and managing director of the PSLV, also confirmed the formation of consortium.

The space research agency currently undertakes four to five launches through the PSLV annually. This will be increased eight, then 12, 15 and 18 at its peak, said Patil. That would mean a launch every three weeks, he said.

The transition will be gradual and all current players will continue to supply to ISRO so that there is no disruption to short- to medium-term launch schedules. Eventually, the construction of PSLV will be transitioned to the consortium. Though the final fuel injection will continue to be done at the ISRO launch site. “We expect sometime in 2020 the first fully private sector-built PSLV to be launched,” said Patil.

The PSLV is the third-generation launch vehicle with 50 successful missions, putting in orbit more than 260 satellites, including over 50 from India. It also launched two Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and Mars Orbiter in 2013.

The participation with ISRO will help the private sector leapfrog in space technology, Patil said. So far, private companies only supplied parts and the launch vehicle was assembled by ISRO.

ISRO-launched vehicles are among the cheapest in the world. A typical cost of PSLV is between Rs 200 crore and Rs 220 crore. ISRO has agreed to transfer the construction of these PSLVs at the same cost to the private sector, Patil said. If every year a minimum 10 launches are undertaken, the consortium partners and vendors down the line will get close to Rs 2,200 crore in revenue.

L&T will supply solid structures and platforms including the heat shields, HAL will provide the liquid propulsion systems and tier-1 vendors like Godrej & Boyce will provide the engines.

This is expected to free up a lot of resources for ISRO which will now concentrate on advanced space technology projects like Chandrayaan and the manned mission and re-entry vehicle technology.