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Bangalore, June 27

ISRO today said that it was close to be signed up for involvement in two important global navigation systems - the Russian GLONASS and Europe's Galileo.

It hopes to launch some of the replenishment satellites for GLONASS on its GSLV launcher, and possibly provide a couple of satellites to be part of the system.

Eleven of the 21 GLONASS navigation satellites are said to be functioning and need to be urgently backed up with longer-life ones.

The ISRO Chairman, Mr Madhavan Nair, said that ISRO was looking at an opportunity to launch some Russian-built satellites from India in a couple of years.

He was speaking on the sidelines of an international conference on space law and planetary exploration.

According to senior ISRO officials, talks have been going on with Russian space and Defence agencies for some time and a concrete agreement may come about in the coming months.

As for the ambitious European 30-satellite, $3.6-billion Galileo mission - operated at 24,000 km above the surface - ISRO is said to bargaining to be a major partner and hardware provider rather than getting a mere pay-and-use role.

At the meet, the European Space Agency (ESA) Director-General, Dr Jean-Jacques Dordain, said: "We are close to an agreement with India on the Galileo programme."

GLONASS is the Russian answer to a nearly monopolistic US Global Positioning System, both run by their respective military, while the ESA has planned a similar civilian-purpose system of its own in the near term.

Mr Nair said that India has proved its capability to build and launch satellites and has put four small satellites in space so far; a full single launch of the Italian-built Agile would take place next year.

The first satellite in the fourth generation Insat-4 series would be launched around August-end or September this year, he added.

`Time to update laws'Earlier, Mr Nair said that the time had come for international bodies such as the UN and its arm ITU to look at updating laws relevant to space-based activities, promote collaborative exploration, resource sharing, disaster management, IPR, and handling space debris, while checking appropriation by any one country.

"Space is no more the enterprise of a few nations, but is a resource of development and societal benefit. The quantum jump in the scope and depth of activities of space demands formulation of new policies to sustain and improve on the current growth. The need to co-operate, share, and partner has not been more essential than it is seen now."

India had put in place two policies - one in 2000 to facilitate private sector participation in satellite programmes and the other in 2002, governing remote sensing data use.

Space-faring countries have increased satellite-based activities enormously and are embarking upon several co-operative programmes and applications.

Asia alone is a hothouse of such activity: Japan, India, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia together have 30 remote sensing satellites and over 80 communication satellites with 1,700 transponders.

The three-day Asia-Pacific conference on advances in planetary exploration and space law is being organised by the Aeronautical Society of India, the International Academy of Astronautics, and the International Institute of Space Law.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 28, 2005)
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