Isro’s SSLV to launch Australia’s largest spacecraft

The launch services agreement was signed between Isro’s commercial arm, NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), and the Australian company Space Machines Company

June 28, 2024

The Optimus spacecraft will be the largest Australian-designed and built spacecraft, aiming to enhance in-orbit inspection, repair, and upgrade capabilities

This contract is part of a broader agreement between the Indian and Australian governments to launch three Australian satellites, with Australia investing up to US$ 18 million

Space Machines Company has an R&D facility in Bengaluru and has an early mover in the in-orbit infrastructure market, projected to be worth US$ 4.5 billion by 2028

The SSLV, designed to meet global demand for smaller launch vehicles, can carry up to 500 kg payloads to an orbit around 500 km above Earth

Isro’s newest rocket, the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), has been contracted by Australia’s Space Machines Company to launch a 450-kilogram satellite into lower earth orbit (LEO). During the India Space Congress in New Delhi, this launch services agreement was signed between Isro’s commercial arm, NSIL, and the Australian company.

Scheduled for launch in 2026, the Optimus spacecraft will be the largest Australian-designed and built spacecraft. The contract forms part of a broader agreement between the Indian and Australian governments, including launching three Australian satellites. Australia will invest up to US$18 million to boost its nascent space sector.

Space Machines Company, based in Adelaide and with an R&D facility in Bengaluru, focuses on inspecting, repairing, and upgrading in-orbit infrastructure—a market projected by PwC to be worth US$ 4.5 billion by 2028. The company’s CEO, Rajat Kulshrestha, highlighted the mission, christened Maitri, as aligning India’s economic and geopolitical interests with Australia’s ambitions in space. Discussions with NSIL began last year during India’s G20 presidency.

The Optimus spacecraft will feature cameras and sensors to inspect other space assets, aiding satellite constellation operators like OneWeb or Starlink in diagnosing technical issues. This functionality requires significant manoeuvrability, with nearly 65% of the spacecraft’s mass dedicated to fuel.

The SSLV, designed to meet global demand for smaller launch vehicles, can carry up to 500 kg payloads to an orbit around 500 km above Earth. This launch vehicle is crucial to Isro and NSIL’s strategy to capture a larger share of the multi-billion dollar launch services market, which has seen increased demand with the entry of private players into the space industry.

Competing with SpaceX and RocketLab, Isro aims to offer low-cost access to space, a market in which India has traditionally excelled. The SSLV is more time—and resource-efficient to assemble than larger rockets like the PSLV and is expected to be manufactured by the private sector once operational, enhancing its competitiveness in the global launch services market.

The SSLV has had two development launches, with the first failing and the second successfully placing the payload into orbit.

Source: Economic Times

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