pitches India's frugal space prowess at rocket launch
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[July 01, 2014]
By Sruthi Gottipati
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Newly elected Prime
Minister Narendra Modi made a pitch for India to be the world's low-cost
space technology supplier after witnessing the launch of a rocket
carrying five satellites from France, Singapore, Germany and Canada on
The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle's mission bolstered India's
goal of capturing a large slice of the global satellite launch
industry, estimated to be worth around $55 billion over the next
Deviprasad Karnik, spokesman for the Indian Space Research
Organization, said all five satellites had been placed in orbit.
Modi said India's space program put it in an "elite global group of
five-six countries today. This is one domain in which we are at the
international cutting edge, a domain in which we have pushed beyond
mediocrity to achieve excellence."
So far, India has launched 40 satellites for 19 countries, many of
them advanced nations. Although that is a source of pride for Modi,
the nationalist leader underscored that India still needed to
improve its space capability.
India, he said, had to construct new launch infrastructure and
extend launch capabilities to heavier satellites.
"India has the potential to be the launch service provider of the
world. We must work towards this goal," he said.
India sent its first spacecraft to Mars last November, which set it
on course to be the first Asian mission to reach the red planet. If
successful, it will join a small club of space agencies to have
That mission's cheap price tag of 4.5 billion rupees ($75 million)
prompted Modi on Monday to remark that it cost less than the budget
of the Hollywood science fiction film Gravity.
"Even today our program stands out as the most cost effective in the
world," said Modi. "Our scientists have shown the world a new
paradigm of frugal engineering and the power of imagination."
Modi has championed a more assertive foreign policy since taking
office in May. He invited members of the South Asia Association for
Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to his inauguration in an unprecedented
step and chose Himalayan neighbor Bhutan as his first foreign trip.
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That regional focus now extends to more space cooperation. On
Monday, Modi pledged to develop a SAARC satellite dedicated "to our
neighborhood as a gift from India".
Although Modi made no mention of China, Beijing's program is far
ahead of India's, with bigger rockets, more launches and equally
India launched its space program five decades ago and developed its
own rocket technology after Western powers levied sanctions for a
1974 nuclear weapons test. Five years ago, its Chandrayaan satellite
found evidence of water on the moon.
However thrifty, India's space program has drawn criticism in a
country dogged by poverty and power shortages and in the grip of its
longest economic slowdown since the country embarked on free market
reforms in 1991.
Modi, however, said he believed that space technology offered many
applications. "Space may seem distant but is an integral part of our
daily life today," he said. ($1 = 60.0650 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Sruthi Gottipati; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Ron
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