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Isro's satellite launcher turns into money-spinner

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Indian Space Research Organisation's rockstar Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), known for its exemplary track record of launching 209 satellites of 28 countries till now, is turning into a money-spinner for the space agency.

On June 23 this year, PSLV-C38 had launched 712-kg Cartosat-2 satellite along with 30 co-passenger satellites. Of the 30 nano satellites, while one belonged to Noorul Islam University from Tamil Nadu, the rest 29 were from 14 foreign countries. On Wednesday, the government informed the Lok Sabha that the launch of 29 foreign satellites helped Antrix Corporation Ltd (ACL), the commercial and marketing arm of
Isro, earn Rs 45 crore (6.1 million euros).

Before the June 23 multiple launch, Isro made the world record when its PSLV C37 launched 104 satellites in one go on February 15 this year. However, the space agency did not reveal how much it earned from that record-breaking launch. Out of the 104 satellites, 96 were from the US, three from India and one each from Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UAE.

Launching satellites is fast becoming a competitive industry - several companies like SpaceX's Falcon 9, Russia's Proton ULA, and Arianespace are big names in the space. But Antrix's competitive rates and Isro's expertise in launching nano satellites are helping the country woo foreign customers.

Not only satellite launches, even Isro's interplanetary missions are cheaper than that of foreign space agencies like NASA. India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), which was launched in 2014, cost Isro around $74 million (Rs 450cr) as opposed to
Nasa's Mars orbiter MAVEN (launched in November 2013), which had a total mission cost of $672 million (approximately over Rs 4,000cr).

Globally, the space industry is a $200 billion (Rs 12.8 lakh crore) industry. Even though Antrix currently has a small piece of the big pie in the satellite market, it is on the right track to make big profit in days to come.

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