With a constellation of 432-plus satellites orbiting the earth, the Indian space programme has not only been a moonshot for Indians, but also for the world. A whopping 328 satellites that orbit the earth were launched by Indian rockets for other countries. It all started in 1999, when India for the first time launched foreign satellites - South Korea’s Kitsat-3 weighing 107 kg and Germany’s 45 kg DLR-Tubsat - as a piggyback luggage on the country’s own 1,050 kg Oceansat with the PSLV-C2 rocket.
The ISRO also created a world record of launching the largest number of satellites -104 satellites out of which 101 were foreign in a single PSLV rocket on 15.2.2017. ISRO has earned Rs 1,245.17 crore during the last five years launching satellites from 26 countries.
Contracts with 10 countries namely: the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, Singapore, The Netherlands, Japan, Malaysia, Algeria and France were signed in the last five years under commercial arrangements, Union Minister of State in the Department of Space and Department of Atomic Energy Jitendra Singh told Rajya Sabha in December 2019.
Bulk of the foreign satellites lofted by ISRO rocket were small ones, the heaviest foreign satellites that it had put into orbit in 2015 were the three UK satellites UK-DMC 3A, 3B and 3C each weighing 447 kg.
On January 17, 2020, India’s telecommunication satellite 3,357 kg GSAT-30 -replacement for INSAT-4A-was successfully launched into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) on from Kourou launch base, French Guiana by an Ariane rocket. In 2019, ISRO’s workhorse PSLV rocket had lofted 52.7 ton, out of which 17 per cent consists of customer satellites.
India’s manned space flights are also on track. Four astronauts have been picked for training, which is set to begin in Russia later this month. Up to three astronauts are expected to take part in the mission, which is slated to take place by 2022.