Madhumathi D.S.

Bangalore, March 1

The US Presidential agenda does not seem to have time or space for a couple of anticipated "handshakes" with the national space agency, ISRO.

Anticipation 1 was for allowing launch from India of satellites with US licence or US components - currently banned.

Another was for a formal word on putting two US non-commercial payloads or experiments on the Indian moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, which is slated for early 2008.

The third one was removal of three ISRO centres from the US Bureau of Export Administration's blacklist of "entities".

Now all ears are on whether Mr George W. Bush will say anything specific on these issues during his visit.

In recent years marked by co-operation and a space summit in June 2004, the first two issues have been discussed and some understanding reportedly reached.

The Department of Space was said to be gearing up for some headway in at least one of the issues.

The Department Secretary and the ISRO Chairman - who refused to speak about it - are going to be in Bangalore on March 2.

"Now, there is nothing that is to be signed, there have been no discussions. We were ready to sign at least their two approved Chandrayaan payloads" as a token, a senior Department official familiar with the developments told

Business Line

. "We are perplexed why this is not happening."

ISRO's current capability is in launching satellites of two tonnes on its PSLV and GSLV rockets (besides making up to three-tonne spacecraft). This is the slot that the global space leaders, the US and Europe, have moved up from.

The small satellite launch market is not growing but is worth over $1 billion. In space, as in other areas, India makes cost sense as its launches come at a third or half of the cost in the West. But the country's policy does not allow satellites by US operators or third country projects with US components to come to India.

"They don't any more have our range of launchers for small and experimental University-kind of satellites (weighing 100-200 kg that can ride piggyback with main satellites). India will not be in direct launch competition with the US but can complement it," the official said.

Until a couple of years back, the US would not even acknowledge India's launch capability, proven since the 1995 indigenous PSLV took off.

Now it feels it should "do something" to show it is serious about "co-operation".

"We are happy that there is some progress, but not with the pace of it," the official said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 2, 2006)
XThese are links to The Hindu Business Line suggested by Outbrain, which may or may not be relevant to the other content on this page. You can read Outbrain's privacy and cookie policy here.