By N. C. Bipindra
New Delhi: World’s largest defence and aerospace company is keen on exploring the newly opened Indian market for the space sector in collaboration with both the government and the new entrants from the private industry, Lockheed Martin Corp.‘s India chief has said.
In particular, the company is ready to support Indian Space Research Organisation‘s (ISRO’s) human space flight mission, Gaganyaan.
At a recently held suppliers meet of Lockheed Martin for the Indian market, the company got the opportunity to showcase its capabilities in the space sector and the work that it has done with the United States‘ National Aeronautics and Space Administration, popularly called NASA.
The suppliers meet this year, held virtually through video conferencing, saw at least six vice presidents of Lockheed Martin from its space business participating in discussions with Indian private companies keen on doing business in the space sector.
Lockheed Martin had tied up with the Confederation of Indian Industry’s Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers for the suppliers meet. The virtual conference provided Lockheed Martin “a little bit more breadth and diversity” to reach out to companies working in the “the last dimension and the boundary less” space sector.
Themed ‘Making India part of the Global Supply Chain‘, the five-day conference witnessed more than 400 delegates and over 200 companies of all sizes — large, Micro-Small-Medium Enterprises and startups in the defence and aerospace sectors joining the conference, and 62 companies exhibited.
“We have got a lot of opportunities now with the Government of India placing an emphasis on opening up the space domain. With this, there are opportunities now for greater collaboration internationally,” said William L. Blair, vice president and chief executive of Lockheed Martin India, in an exclusive interview.
“This (opening of the space domain to the private sector) presents further opportunities for our company. This (space) sector could be the future dimension and we (Lockheed Martin) would be happy to support,” Blair said.
Among the space activities that the American company is willing to support India include “human space flight; deep space exploration in the civilian domain; commercial satellites; communications in the civilian, government and the military domains; and Global Positioning System (GPS).”
“We have a huge dependence internationally in terms of the GPS capabilities that have been deployed, and that can pull in a lot of startups, across the US and India, in the space domain.”
Blair said Lockheed Martin is currently involved in every NASA space mission, including launch and those that support human space flight. The company plays the role of a lead integrator and in support role with NASA missions
“We (the company) can find our path and we have talked to ISRO through our joint engagements with NASA, and to that degree, we can underpin that support as an industry partner. We do this already with NASA. We have done it with other countries such as the United Arab Emirates, to name one as an example, where oftentimes, in particular, space exploration involves a public-private partnership or under an effective government-to-government model,” Blair said.
In June, Indian government approved opening the hitherto state-only space sector for participation by the private sector, in a bid to boost growth, self-reliance, and investment in the domain in which ISRO is already a world beater. The move could invite entry into the sector of Indian companies such as the Larsen & Toubro and Tata Group.
India is committed to launching its first human space mission, Gaganyaan, on time before Aug. 2022 despite the roadblocks created by the deadly COVID-19 which has severely impacted the country’s economy.
ISRO, supervising the Rs 10,000 crore ($1.33 billion) project, is preparing to launch the Gaganyaan in 2022, the 75th anniversary year of India’s independence from colonial rule.
In April, ISRO announced an opportunity for developing technologies for sustained human space flight programme and space exploration, to engage academic and research institutions in its Gaganyaan project.