In the first big since its inception, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has allowed three industries—two private and one government-run firm—to build as many as satellites in the next three years, indicating industry readiness and paving way for the next chapter in Indian space programme.

In all these years of space-faring, only two have been assembled by the industry, the IRNSS-1H and IRNSS-1I, that too on a select-basis, only late last year and early this year. The two were assembled by Bengaluru-headquartered consortium led by Alpha Design Technologies.

Now, Isro’s contract for satellites will see the Alpha Design consortium that includes six SMEs— Newtech; Aidin; Aniara; DCX; Vinyas and Exseed Space—defence PSU Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), and, Tata Advanced systems Limited make three satellites each per annum for the next three years.

All three firms will integrate satellites with the help and guidance of Isro by procuring sub-systems from the Isro supply chain.

The contract, signed by the UR Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) on behalf of Isro, was done in a closed room, with no media. Isro has not made an official statement about the deal and has issued gag orders on the discussion of the financial details even to the companies.

“The contract is for each of the three to make nine 1.6 tonne to 2-3 tonne satellites, based on requirement, which means they’ll make a total of nine every year, and 27 by the end of three years,” a source from Isro said, citing ongoing parliament session as reason to be off the record.

The satellites will be a combination of communication, imaging and meteorological (for disaster management) and the contract has the option of extending the same for another two years, which means 18 additional satellites.

Confirming the signing of the contracts, Colonel (retd) HS Shankar, CMD, Alpha Design, said: “We signed similar agreements as the Tatas and BEL, and I hope that creates the ecosystem to allow more industries in the future.”

All three firms will be working at the new facility created for private industry at Isite (Isro Spacecraft Integration Test Establishment) in Bengaluru.

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