PPP in the Space Sector is in the right direction, says Surendra M Vaidya, Executive Vice President and Business Head, Godrej Aerospace

By: |
August 14, 2020 3:30 PM

Currently, ISRO support is limited due to their own schedules and targets. Now the new policy and two organisations like NSIL and INSPACe are taking shape.

In the past 10 years, more than 20 space-tech start-ups have emerged in India.In the past 10 years, more than 20 space-tech start-ups have emerged in India.

For over three decades Godrej Aerospace & Defence, has been a long term partner with deep partnerships with organisations the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). In India’s quest for `Atmanirbhar,’ the company has plans to developing a domestic eco-system, which will help in boosting the domestic defence manufacturing capabilities in the country.

It has extended its help in developing and manufacturing critical equipment including airframe assemblies, fuel tanks, valves, regulators and motor casings for a variety of missiles, missile launchers, etc. It has also played a very important role in making parts for the Light Combat Aircraft program, remote sensing antennas, thrusters and engines for ISRO’s Launch vehicles.

Surendra M Vaidya, Executive Vice President and Business Head, Godrej Aerospace, shares his company’s future plans and how the success of Space X will boost ISRO’s confidence with Huma Siddiqui.

Following are excerpts:

The government has opened up the space sector to private participation. What do you think about this?

The public-private partnership was a step in the right direction, and autonomy to both ISRO and private industry was the need of the hour. While doing so, we must have good controls on justified usage, ensure safety in all our operations and consider environmental, sustainability aspects.

Space in India has three dimensions, Space for ease of operations via digitization and better connectivity which is through communication satellites in GEO which is a purely commercial usage of the space application.

Next is remote sensing mainly in LOE which is good for Military usage and strategic data generation and also for Mini and Microsatellites. This is easy for launch but most of the applications are strategic and hence shall have good controls.

Third is interplanetary missions and R&D on the futuristic launch vehicles and satellites. This will require huge investments and regulatory adherences. We can also club this with the establishment of basic testing and qualifications facilities, simulators and development of codes and standards.

GEO shall be immediately permitted while LOE and interplanetary missions shall have a calibrated approach but shall be opened up immediately but in a gradual manner.

How is the company playing a role in making the ISRO Atmanirbhar?

Godrej has been associated with ISRO for the past three decades. The association began with the manufacturing of simple components to ISRO’s requirement and gradually, it progressed into making subsystems for the launch vehicles. We have been manufacturing complex systems such as the liquid propulsion engines for PSLV and GSLV rockets, thrusters for satellites and antenna systems. Godrej Aerospace has also played an integral part in the prestigious Chandrayaan 1&2 and Mangalyaan missions. Godrej & Boyce has been proudly committed to the cause of indigenous manufacturing for India’s space programs which are key to propel India’s technological prowess.

The most important part is that Godrej has shown the capability to develop many manufacturing technologies along with the development that happens at ISRO, and has developed very critical and unique facilities for the first time in India. It takes a lot of effort and time. The gestation period for such facilities is very high and the training of personnel is also time-consuming. A private industry player like Godrej has shown that kind of passion and patience considering the longtime period for recovery of investments. This is the greatest contribution, as in many cases R&D is not successful and one needs to start from scratch again.

Several start-ups are mushrooming in the space sector. Do you feel they have the wherewithal to exploit this niche sector?

In the past 10 years, more than 20 space-tech start-ups have emerged in India. Godrej Aerospace is setting up a new facility to cater to orders from these private enterprises, which began pouring in 2019. These start-ups aren’t anywhere near disrupting the current status quo. We don’t see them as competition yet as they are still in the R&D mode, while we are in full production. If they can do some disruption in technology and overtake our engines and innovation, then yes they can compete with us. But we do not see that happening for the next five years.

Start-ups are very welcome and we try to help them by sharing our manufacturing knowledge, process knowledge and even manufacturing some of their parts. A mix of start-up and matured companies is good to get innovation and at the same time,a stable supply chain and financial muscle to sustain R&D and production issues.

Space X was a huge success a private venture working with NASA — Does any Indian company have such a futuristic vision?

SpaceX’s achievement will give ISRO the confidence to provide a fillip to its private initiatives. Last month, ISRO had formally announced the launch of its IN-SPACE programme, which will aid Indian start-ups with technology transfers, so that India can have its own SpaceX, and the focus of ISRO can shift to exploratory missions.

Currently, ISRO support is limited due to their own schedules and targets. Now that the new policy and two organisations like NSIL and INSPACe are taking shape, I see very clearly that in the next decade India will have at least 3-4 organizations competing with Space X and will also get in space tourism and exploration of space for our needs.

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