The USA has agreed to relax export restrictions on equipment for India's civil space programme and to liberalise the transfer of dual-use technology to India, writes Radhakrishna Rao.

The move is likely to boost India's already growing commercial space business. Antrix, the Bangalore-based commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), reported revenues of Rp3 billion ($65.5 million) for the year just ended, up from Rp1 billion a year earlier, and profits of Rp300 million. US sanctions were imposed on India in the wake of its 1998 nuclear weapon tests, and ISRO was denied access to satellite components including radiation-hardened electronics.

The USA will now relax export controls under the first phase of the Next Step in Strategic Partnership initiative, agreed last week, which will expand co-operation between the two countries in the areas of civil nuclear activity, civil space programmes and high-technology trade. ISRO will be removed from the US Department of Commerce's blacklist.

India and the USA have also agreed to expand talks on co-operation on ballistic-missile defence. India's commercial space business is already growing, with the country's IRS series of satellites capturing 15% of the international market of Earth-resources data.

Antrix's launch business is also picking up. Using the indigenously developed Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, India has launched satellites for Belgium, Denmark and South Korea. It has a $10 million European Union contract to launch an Italian-built satellite and has just signed a deal to launch the Tubsat piggyback payload for Indonesian space agency Lapan.

Source: Flight International