India’s offer to privatise rocket has 20 potential bidders

India’s offer to privatise rocket has 20 potential bidders

BENGALURU, July 27 (Reuters) – The Indian government’s effort to privatise part of its space programme by opening bids to build its small satellite launch rocket has attracted initial interest from 20 companies, an official overseeing the process told Reuters.

India’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) was developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation, the national space agency, and had its first successful satellite launch in February.

The SSLV was designed as a low-cost means to launch satellites weighing up to 500 kg (1,102 lb) into low-earth orbit, serving a booming market to launch clusters of satellites for communications and data that SpaceX and rivals now serve.

Under a policy drive by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is following NASA’s lead in opening launch and other space businesses to private investment.

The bid to take over manufacturing and development of the SSLV rocket programme was the first privatisation of its kind under that policy.

India’s newly created space regulatory body, the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre, known as IN-SPACe, opened the process on July 11 by allowing qualified companies to register an interest.

Pawan Goenka, chairman of IN-SPACe, said 20 companies had submitted an “expression of interest” (EOI) in the rocket programme.

INSPACe will have a pre-EOI consultation with these 20 applicants within two weeks, Goenka told Reuters.

He did not name the companies.

To be eligible to bid companies have to be profitable and the lead bidder in a consortium has to have at least five years of manufacturing experience and annual revenue of 4 billion rupees ($48.8 million).

India is aiming to increase its share of the global satellite launch market by fivefold within the next decade.

Goenka previously said the regulator expects that the winning bidder for the SSLV programme would be able to develop the small-satellite launch business and make India “the global hub for such launches.”

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