(This was originally posted On The Times Of India by Chethan Kumar)
Three entities — two consortia and a single firm — including an Adani-led group and another with L&T are in the race for the PSLV contract, which will, for the first time, see entities outside of Isro build a launch vehicle end-to-end.
The contract will be for building five launch vehicles and multiple sources confirmed to TOI that the three entities, on July 30, submitted their bids in response to an RFP (request for proposal) issued by New Space India Limited (NSIL).
A space-PSU operating under the department of space (DoS), NSIL was initially conceived to be a commercial arm of Isro, and later mandated with productionising launch vehicles, owning satellites, and more.
As reported first by TOI in August 2019, NSIL had announced an expression of interest (EoI) for five PSLVs to which five entities had responded. The RFP for the same was then issued in December 2020.
“There were five players who responded to the EOI; three have submitted bids after the RFP just over three weeks ago,” a senior official said.
A consortium of HAL and L&T, another comprising Adani-Alpha Design, BEL, and BEML are the two group entities, while BHEL has bid as a single firm. As per DoS, the contract will not only boost the Make-in-India initiative of the government but will also enhance Isro’s ability to launch more satellites each year.
NSIL chairman and managing director Radhakrishnan D, said: “The techno-commercial evaluation is underway, after which the bids will be opened. We are hopeful of completing the whole process in a couple of months, and cannot comment on anything more at this juncture.”
One of the sources said that the contract is expected to be awarded by the end of this year and the selected entity will be a licensed producer.
While Isro has always worked closely with the industry — any PSLV launch sees more than 150 industries, big and small, contribute to the vehicle — this is for the first time that it will be completely built by the industry.
The PSLV, which had its first flight in September 1993, has been Isro’s workhorse having completed more than 50 launch missions over 25 years and the new initiative is.
NSIL, whose mandate has been expanded to own and operate capital-intensive assets — satellites and launch vehicles — has plans of investing around Rs 10,000 crore over the next five years. The PSU, which has a paid-up capital of Rs 10 crore and an authorized capital of Rs 100 crore, was allocated Rs 700 crore by the Centre in the 2021-22 budget.
In 2019-20, NSIL earned a revenue of around Rs 300 crore and while the official figures for 2020-21 are not out yet, the company was confident of more than Rs 300-crore.