How ISRO & Antrix Became International Go-to Agencies- ISRO’S ‘Small is Beautiful’ ? (Download PDF)


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In February 2017, ISRO launched 104 satellites in one go beating Russia’s record of 37. Barring the 714-kg Cartosat, all others were nano-satellites. This is a big achievement and marks a feather in the cap of ISRO’s commercial venture.

How ISRO & Antrix Became International Go-To Agencies- ISRO’s

How ISRO & Antrix Became International Go-To Agencies- ISRO’s

How ISRO & Antrix Became International Go-To Agencies- ISRO’s


  • On April 19, 1975 a liquid-fuelled two-stage Kosmos 3M rocket blasted off with a 360kg Aryabhatta, India’s first satellite.

  • Aryabhatta ushered in a new era for Indian space, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), a medium-class launcher, enabled Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to become self-sufficient in some ways.

  • ISRO’s mastery in perfecting PSLV propelled this journey and its commercial arm, Antrix, ensured steady growth of customers and raked in the revenue.

  • Antrix is today the go-to organisation for several countries, translating into 10%-20 % of Antrix’s revenue.

ISRO’s Story Since 1999

  • Between May 1999 and June 2017, ISRO launched 209 satellites from 28 countries with a combined weight of 6, 694.70 kg.

  • The weight of three recent Indian satellites GSATs 16, 15 & 18–launched by the French Ariane rocket, is 9, 750 kg.

Image of ISRO’s Story Since 1999

Image of ISRO’s Story Since 1999

Image of ISRO’s Story Since 1999

ISRO’s & Antrix’s ‘Small is Beautiful’ Mantra

  • Unlike the French Arianespace, or SpaceX of the US, ISRO is not a commercial organisation.

  • India has a lot of demands and commercial launches are secondary.

  • The spare space in the rocket is used to carry other satellites. Therefore, ISRO follows the mantra ‘small is beautiful’.

Antrix’s Commercial Launches

  • There have been complete commercial launches for

  • Singapore

  • UK

  • Antrix, gained $76.5 million and $4.5 million by launching foreign satellites in the past two years.

  • In 2013, Antrix earned $6.9m from foreign launches, and $18.2m and $55.5m in 2014 and 2015.

Image of Antrix's Revenues

Image of Antrix’s Revenues

Image of Antrix’s Revenues

  • It is hopeful of earning more in the future as ISRO increases it PSLV launches from six per year to eight.

  • India accommodates satellites as co-passengers to its satellites, so earning of Antrix is not like other private companies.

  • With PSLV a runaway success, ISRO has begun work on its next generation vehicle -the Heavy Lift Vehicle or HLV powered by a semi-cryo engine that can lift nearly seven tonnes of payload.

  • A new assembly centre in Sriharikota will help simultaneous work on PSLV and GSLV launches.

So What Makes ISRO the Preferred Agency?

Despite 90 % of these resources being consumed for Indian needs, Antrix’s growth graph is commendable, especially when a majority of the countries launching with ISRO do not have bilateral space treaties with India.

  • Commercial satellite launching is a fluctuating market based on many parameters like the space the payload occupies, the prime orbit, reliability of the rocket, the timing among others.
  • PSLV has a proven track record which makes customers insuring the satellites less expensive.

  • ISRO also offers the best turnaround time given ISRO’s frequency, which also adds to the cost factor.

  • There are not many offering rockets that could put small satellites into space.

- Published/Last Modified on: March 27, 2018


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