Mumbai-based Agrani Satellite Services, which is striving to become India's first private satellite venture, continues to lurch from one uncertainty to another, writes Radhakrishna Rao. Backed by the Indian media mogul Subash Chandra, Gibraltar-registered Agrani has pulled out of a deal with Alcatel Space for the in-orbit delivery of a satellite because the "price has proved too high".

The Alcatel satellite was planned for an Ariane launch by the end of 2004 or early 2005. Agrani says it is shopping around for a cheaper satellite already in orbit and has approached Antrix, the Bangalore-based commercial arm of the Indian government's space programme, with a proposal to build and launch a direct-broadcast satellite.

Agrani won a five-year legal battle against Hughes (now Boeing) over a cancelled $700 million contract for two communications satellites. Hughes stopped work, alleging Agrani could not pay. But Chandra argued that Hughes stopped because of its greater interest in a contract with the Asia Pacific Mobile Telecommunication consortium of Singapore. Agrani then placed an order with Lockheed Martin, but US sanctions blocked the deal. This led to the now-defunct Alcatel contract.

Source: Flight International