Fund crunch hits Isro programmes

Isro has barely any options but to "re-prioritise" several upcoming missions due to a fund crunch that led to lowering of allocations for the construction of at least 10 satellites and as many PSLV missions.

The shortfall is so stiff that the Department of Space (DoS) does not have enough money at the moment to "initiate advance actions for procurement of materials and renewal of fabrication contracts" for the next phase of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) missions.

The DoS plans to approach the Ministry of Finance (MoF) later this year, seeking an additional allocation of Rs 400 crore to continue with the PSLV programme, Isro chairman K Sivan informed a parliamentary panel that submitted its report in the recently concluded Budget Session of Parliament.

The DoS sought nearly Rs 16,569 crore from the MoF but received Rs 10,783 crore in the 2018-19 Budget.

The shortfall of Rs 5,786 crore impacted ongoing PSLV missions and a bunch of satellites Cartosat-3, Risat-1A, Oceantsat-3 series, Resourcesat-3 series, Nisar (being developed jointly with Nasa), HRSAT, GSAT-20, 22, 23, and 24.

One of the impacted programmes is Prime Minister Narendra Modi's favourite idea of linking space technologies to government works, from planning to implementation.

Because of the prime minister's push, nearly 170 space-related projects were identified by 60 central departments at a national conference in 2015 on the application of space technology for development and governance. For implementation, Isro planned to have a constellation of three India-centric satellites in the low earth orbit with daily revisit capability.

The HRSAT constellation is one of the projects hit by the paucity of funds. But because of its importance, DoS will seek the approval of an additional Rs 60 crore from the MoF in the supplementary demands for grants.

Nearly Rs 800 crore will also be sought to start the operational phase of GSLV-Mk-III the indigenous heavy-duty rocket capable of carrying a 4-tonne class satellite to the geosynchronous orbit.

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