The world looked on in awe as ISRO or the Indian Space Research Agency launched 104 satellites in space on Wednesday. The record-setting mission by the Indian space agency took years of work and all the effort has paid off. One key outcome of ISRO's successful satellite launch missions is that the agency has become a reliable and extremely cost-effective option globally, for entities looking to launch satellites.
With a mission cost of around $15 million, the PSLV is considered one of the cheapest options for satellite launches. By comparison, a satellite launch mission by Elon Musk's SpaceX, employing a reusable Falcon rocket costs $60 million. The ISRO launches are far more cost-effective for companies in the US that want to launch a bunch of nanosats.
ISRO performed 8 missions last year, employing both PSLV and GSLV rockets. The agency's director AS Kiran Kumar said that, optimally, they would like to do 18-24 launches per year to break even. "Right now we have ₹400 crores of orders in the bag. And we are in talk with a lot of companies for orders worth ₹500 to ₹600 crores," S Rakesh, Director of Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO, said at a press conference.
In the past, ISRO has been accused of keeping the price of its satellite launch services too low by international standards in order to eliminate competition. There have also been reports of scientists' salaries being too low. It has been pointed out that the launches are subsidised by the Indian government. While there is a US policy in place that prevents American companies from using ISRO's satellite services, American authorities have given waivers to local companies for using ISRO missions on many occasions. One major reason behind this is American space agency NASA's reluctance to launch nanosats and the fact that SpaceX missions are still not taking place at a regular frequency.
With India mastering PSLV launches and entering the MCTR (Missile Control Technology Regime) club, ISRO's next big milestone would be the successful conclusion of GLSV MK 3 rocket testing, with its payload capacity of 4,000 kg. The Indian space story is just getting started.