Space missions are often quite costly endeavors. Many opponents have expressed their concerns about keeping NASA functioning despite the fact that their R&D effort has given the world products that are used every day.
But one country is slowly making progress in the elite space race and, moreover, it is proving that space programs need not be crazy-expensive to fund and run successfully. On June 30, India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) took to the skies from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, reported Zee News. The country is now so adept at offering a piggyback ride to foreign satellites that the PSLV was loaded with five satellites from France, Germany, Canada, and Singapore. The PSLV-C23 rocket was reported to have succeeded in putting all five satellites in their respective orbits, reported Hindustan Times.
But apart from the feat of carrying multiple satellites and launching them in precise orbits, the country has managed to do so literally on a shoe-string budget. To get a clearer idea, consider the fact that the United States recently launched another Mars mission. Christened Maven, the entire Mars mission cost about $671 million.
India’s Mangalyaan satellite to Mars, cost a total of $75 million. The entire budget for the mission didn’t even cross a measly $100 million. The movie Gravity alone cost $100 million, quipped India’s newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi:
“I have heard about the film Gravity. I am told the cost of sending an Indian rocket to space is less than the money invested in making the Hollywood movie.”
Such a huge difference seems truly impossible, but a close look at India’s space program shows how the country manages to keep the costs so low. India has been aping existing space technology and adapting it for its own needs. Moreover, with each variant, Indian scientists regularly indulge in “frugal” engineering to further reduce the costs. With the core expenditure of coming up with a technology from grounds-up eliminated, India saves a lot of time, effort, and money.
However, perhaps the most significant reduction is in the remuneration offered to the man-power. It’s no secret that a high number of scientists in NASA are of Indian origin. Well, India then has regional talent. But more importantly, the country pays them in Indian currency which is now 1/60th the US Dollar. Hence, despite earning handsomely in the local currency, the actual conversion to American dollars shows that the scientists are paid pittance.
Nonetheless, Narendra Modi has smartly recognized the revenue potential of offering Indian space technology to assist launch of foreign satellites. Given the fact that satellite launch industry generates revenue in upwards of $2.2 billion annually, the country may have successfully developed a new and lucrative revenue source.
[Image Credit | NDTV]