It appears that India’s effort in space is evolving rapidly, based on several news stories today.
First, the Indian space agency ISRO signed a deal with Microsoft, whereby the software giant will provide support to private Indian space start-ups.
As part of a memorandum of understanding that Microsoft has signed with the Indian Space Research Organization, the firm will also provide space tech startups with go-to-market support and help them become enterprise ready, it said.
Startups handpicked by ISRO will be onboarded to Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub platform, where they will receive free access to several tools and resources. These tools include help with building and scaling on Azure, as well as GitHub Enterprise, Visual Studio Enterprise, Microsoft 365 and Power BI and Dynamics 365. [emphasis mine]
The highlighted phrase indicates once again that there is an aggressive turf war going on in India about who will control the aerospace industry. Similar to the battles that occurred at NASA in the 00s and 10s, there are people within ISRO who do not wish to cede their power to an independent private industry, and are doing whatever they can to block the Modi government’s effort to create such an independent industry.
In the end, as long as Modi government stands firm, this effort will fail. Private companies will increasingly succeed, and that success will feed the transition from a government-run industry to an independent and competitive one.
In other stories from India:
1. ISRO now expects the second launch attempt of its new SSLV rocket (Small Satellite Launch Vehicle) sometime next month. The first launch, which occurred last August after years of delay due to ISRO’s panic over COVID, ended in failure.
That this government agency is moving to a second launch less than half a year after the failure suggests that ISRO is finally beginning to function again, after three years of panic over the Wuhan flu.
2. ISRO’s first manned mission, Gaganyaan, will be delayed again, this time because the agency has decided it must develop the capsule’s environmental systems itself.
Somanath also explained that the initial plan was to import some technologies from abroad, such as Russia and Europe, but they were not easily available. “We have to do most of these ourselves now. For example, the environmental control and life support system. It is coming at an exorbitant cost. So we decided that we will do it in-house.”
ISRO has also introduced four additional test abort levels, so that if anything goes wrong the crew is able to abort the mission.
The Russian invasion of the Ukraine is likely a factor here, since it has probably made such technology difficult to obtain from Russia.
No date was announced, though previously ISRO was aiming for a ’24 launch. That date however remains doubtful.