Amid the US push to expand cooperation with India in the space sector, the country’s private space industry expressed its opposition to using the Indian Space Research Organisation’s low-cost launch vehicles for placing American satellites in orbit.
Such a move, corporate leaders and officials of the fast-emerging American private space industry told lawmakers this week, would be detrimental to the future health of private-sector space companies in the US because it would be tough for them to compete against ISRO’s low-cost options, which they also alleged were subsidised by the Indian government.
“I think the concern about using Indian boosters is not so much the transfer of sensitive technology to a nation that is a fellow democracy, but rather whether the Indian launches are subsidised by the government to a degree that other market actors would be priced out of the market,” CEO of Space Foundation Elliot Holokauahi Pulham said.
Testifying before a Congressional committee Pulham said there had been some discussion about allowing US built satellites to fly on boosters such as the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, opposed efforts to facilitate a government-subsidised foreign launch company. “Such policy runs counter to many national priorities and undermines the work and investment that has been made by the government and industry to ensure the health of the US commercial space launch industrial base,” Stallmer said.
He said the challenge was that satellites were being manufactured faster than the US was able to launch them and it would not make money sitting on the ground.
“Currently, the Indian launch vehicle PSLV has a sweet spot and the capability of launching some of these satellites right now in a timely manner. We don’t want to see US launches going overseas by any means, whether it’s to India, Russia or whomever else. But right now, from the satellite, you know, producers and manufacturers, they need to get their assets up in the sky as quick as possible,” Stallmer said.
He said the US should stringently look at every launch that was taking place in every vehicle or every payload that the US was putting up using an Indian vehicle. “I think it really needs to be evaluated. We hope to phase this out as a new generation of launched vehicles come online,” he finished.