A new spaceport for small satellite launch vehicles will come up at Kulasekarapattinam, a coastal hamlet near the temple town of Tiruchendur in Thoothukudi district in southern Tamil Nadu.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday laid the foundation stone for the ₹950-crore project, which will come up across 2,233 acres in Padukkapathu, Pallakurichi, and Mathavankurichi villages in Kulasekarapattinam and Sathankulam taluks.

While the space centre at Sriharikota will launch heavier satellites to predetermined orbits, the Kulasekarapattinam spaceport will launch smaller payloads like nano and micro satellites.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman S Somanath recently told mediapersons that it would take nearly two years to build the spaceport at Kulasekarapattinam.

The foundation stone laying ceremony comes close on the heels of the Centre allowing 100 per cent FDI in the space sector. The Indian Space Policy 2023 allows satellite launches by non-government entities (NGEs), subject to technical feasibility and range safety.

In 2020, the Centre permitted private companies to enter the space sector, which was hitherto under the complete control of ISRO. The new policy aims to enable ISRO to focus on scientific space missions rather than routine activities like weather and communication satellite launches. It also seeks to leverage the private sector in making India a self-reliant spacefaring nation.

Small satellite business

The global market for small satellites is projected to have a CAGR of 16.4 per cent — from from $3,215.9 million in 2020 to $13,711.7 million by 2030.

To tap this market, the Centre embarked on establishing a new spaceport at Kulasekarapattinam.

“It’s another launchport for our country. By allowing easier access to polar orbits, the location will help make launches cheaper for both private players and ISRO,” Srinath Ravichandran, Co-founder and CEO of Chennai-based space start-up Agnikul Cosmos, told businessline.

Kulasekarapattinam is a sweet spot for small satellite launches as there is no land between that location and Antarctica. The rule is that you cannot fly over a land mass when you are not in orbit. So, when launched from Kulasekarapattinam you are already in orbit by the time you are flying above Antarctica, he had earlier explained to businssline.

A cargo truck and four caravans are all that are required to launch small satellites, he said.

The Tamil Nadu government, on its part, plans to set up a Space Industrial Park and Propellants Park near Thoothukudi to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the Kulasekarapattinam spaceport. The proposed industrial parks are expected to ease supply chain constraints for the upstream activities of the Kulasekarapattinam spaceport. The Tamil Nadu government plans to link the parks with related industries such as electronics, mechanical structures and propulsion chemicals.