IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


4th January, 2024 Science and Technology


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  • NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL) will launch GSAT-20 (also known as GSAT-N2) aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket in the second quarter of 2024.


GSAT-20 Satellite Overview


  • High-throughput Ka-band satellite with 32 beams offering pan-India coverage, including remote areas like Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands.
  • Weight: 4,700 kg.
  • HTS capacity: Nearly 48 Gbps.
  • Designed specifically to cater to the demanding service needs of remote and unconnected regions.
  • Satellite Ownership: GSAT-20, a high-throughput Ka-band satellite (HTS), is fully owned, operated, and funded by NSIL.
  • Purpose: Continuation of the GSAT series, intended to augment data transmission capacity for India's Smart Cities Mission.

Significance of GSAT-20:

  • Service Needs: GSAT-20 aims to meet broadband service needs and other requirements like IFMC (In-Flight & Maritime Connectivity) and cellular backhaul services.
  • User Demands: Aligning with space sector reforms, NSIL is mandated to build, launch, own, and operate satellites in "demand-driven mode" to cater to user needs.

Technological Advancements:

  • Propulsion System: First fully Electric Propulsion (EP) enabled satellite, significantly more efficient (5-6 times) than chemical-based propulsion.
  • Orbit Maneuvering: Pioneering movement from Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) to Geosynchronous Orbit (GSO) using Electric Propulsion. 

Payload Specifications:

  • Communications Payload: Ka-band high-throughput communications payload capable of 70 Gbit/s throughput.
  • Beam Configuration: 40 beams offering High Throughput Satellite (HTS) capacity nearing 48 Gbps. Each beam features 2 polarizations, effectively totaling 80 beams.

Partnership and Launch Agreement:

  • NSIL-ISRO Partnership: GSAT-20 is being realized through ISRO, with NSIL undertaking the mission.
  • Launch Contract: The satellite will be launched aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 under a contract between NSIL and SpaceX, USA.

Launch Details and Changes:

  • Initial Launch Expectation: Initially scheduled for launch in 2024 on LVM 3 (India's GSLV Mark-III).
  • Launch Platform Shift: Moved to a SpaceX Falcon 9 due to being 700 kilos overweight for successful launch on indigenous platforms.

Falcon 9 Overview

  • Falcon 9 is a reusable two-stage rocket developed and manufactured by SpaceX, designed for reliable and safe transportation of payloads and people into Earth orbit and beyond.
  • The Falcon 9 rocket has achieved numerous milestones in the realm of space exploration since its first launch in 2010.

Key Features and Achievements:

  • Launch Capability: Falcon 9 serves as a medium-lift launch vehicle, capable of carrying cargo and crew to Earth orbit. It's also adaptable for heavy-lift launches when needed.
  • Milestone Launches:
    • Commercial Resupply Missions: Its early missions involved supplying cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services.
    • First Commercial Rocket to Launch Humans: In 2020, Falcon 9 made history by becoming the first commercial rocket to transport astronauts to orbit and remains the only such vehicle with this capability.
    • Safety Record: It boasts an impressive safety record, being the U.S. rocket certified for crewed missions to the ISS and having a remarkable track record, with just one flight failure.
  • Reusability: Falcon 9's groundbreaking feature is its ability to land the first (booster) stage vertically after launch, enabling its reuse for subsequent missions. This breakthrough significantly reduces the cost of space travel.
  • Performance and Payloads:
    • Payload to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO): Falcon 9 has transported heavy payloads to GTO, such as Intelsat 35e and Telstar 19V, setting records for payload capacity.
    • Satellite Launch Record: It set a record for the most satellites launched by a single rocket, deploying 143 satellites into orbit in January 2021.
  • Engine and Propellant: Both stages of Falcon 9 are powered by Merlin engines, using liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) as propellants, ensuring efficiency and reliability.
  • Certifications: Falcon 9 is human-rated by NASA for crewed missions to the ISS, certified for the National Security Space Launch program, and categorized by NASA Launch Services as capable of handling complex missions.
  • Evolution and Versions: Multiple versions of Falcon 9 have been developed and utilized, including v1.0, v1.1, and v1.2 Full Thrust. The Block 5 variant, operational since May 2018, is a part of the v1.2 version and represents the latest and most advanced iteration.

About SpaceX

  • SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk in 2002, has emerged as a multifaceted company at the forefront of space exploration, spacecraft manufacturing, launch services, satellite communications, and more.


  • Founding: SpaceX was established with the goal of reducing space transportation costs and enabling the colonization of Mars. Musk aimed to achieve this by making rockets reusable.
  • Falcon 1: SpaceX's first orbital launch vehicle, Falcon 1, faced initial setbacks but eventually succeeded in reaching orbit on its fourth attempt in 2008.
  • Falcon 9: The development of Falcon 9, a two-stage rocket, marked a significant milestone for SpaceX. It introduced the concept of reusability, with its first stage designed to land back on Earth after launch. This breakthrough drastically reduced launch costs.
  • Dragon Spacecraft: SpaceX developed the Dragon spacecraft to carry cargo and crew to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
  • Commercial Resupply Services (CRS): SpaceX became the first private company to resupply the ISS under NASA's CRS program, launching cargo missions using the Dragon spacecraft.
  • Falcon Heavy: This powerful rocket, consisting of three Falcon 9 first-stage cores, debuted in 2018, capable of lifting heavy payloads into space.
  • Crewed Missions: SpaceX successfully launched crewed missions to the ISS using the Crew Dragon spacecraft, transporting astronauts for NASA.

Notable Achievements:

  • Developed the first liquid-propellant rocket by a private company to reach orbit.
  • Successfully launched, orbited, and recovered a spacecraft.
  • Sent a spacecraft to the ISS and became the first private entity to send astronauts there.
  • Achieved the first vertical propulsive landing and reuse of an orbital rocket booster, significantly advancing reusability in spaceflight.
  • Falcon 9 rockets have been landed and reflown more than 200 times, showcasing the viability of reusability in reducing costs.

Current Operations and Offerings:

  • Rockets and Spacecraft:
    • Operates Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets known for their reusability and versatility in carrying payloads to orbit.
    • Utilizes Dragon and Starship spacecraft, with Dragon serving as a cargo and crew transport to the International Space Station (ISS), and Starship intended for interplanetary and orbital spaceflight.
  • Starlink Internet Service:
    • Utilizing a massive constellation of small satellites, Starlink offers internet service worldwide, boasting thousands of satellites in orbit by November 2023.


  • As of December 2023, SpaceX holds an estimated valuation of around $180 billion, reflecting its pioneering achievements and ambitious projects in the aerospace industry.

Key Technologies:

  • Reusable Rockets: SpaceX's breakthrough in reusability significantly reduced the cost of space travel by allowing rocket stages to return and be reused for subsequent launches.
  • Raptor Engines: These engines, utilizing methane as fuel, are designed for efficiency, reusability, and high performance.
  • Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ships (ASDS): These platforms enable SpaceX to land and recover rocket stages at sea, expanding the range of possible launch trajectories.
  • Heat Shield Technology: Crew Dragon employs advanced heat shield technology to ensure safe reentry into Earth's atmosphere.

Ongoing Projects and Future Goals:

  • Starship Project: Currently developing Starship, a fully reusable, super heavy-lift launch system designed for interplanetary missions and orbital flights. Starship had its maiden flight in April 2023, becoming the largest and most powerful rocket flown. A subsequent flight took place in November 2023, marking continued progress.
  • Mars Colonization: Elon Musk's long-term vision involves establishing a human settlement on Mars. Starship is a key component of this ambitious plan.
  • Artemis Program: SpaceX is involved in NASA's Artemis program, aiming to return humans to the Moon. The company's lunar lander proposal, HLS (Human Landing System), aims to transport astronauts to and from the lunar surface.

About NSIL

  • NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) is a significant entity within India's space domain, operating as a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Department of Space (DoS).
  • Established on March 6, 2019, NSIL operates under the Company Act of 2013, working in tandem with the DoS to enhance private sector involvement in India's space programs.

Objectives of NSIL:

  • Technology Transfer: Facilitating the transfer of Small Satellite technology from the DoS/ISRO to the private sector through licensing arrangements.
  • Collaborative Manufacturing: Collaborating with the private sector to produce Small Satellite Launch Vehicles (SSLV) and Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLV).
  • Space-based Product and Service Development: Engaging in the production, marketing, and provision of space-based products and services, including launches and applications.
  • Technology Transfer and Marketing: Transferring technology developed by ISRO centers and DoS units and marketing spin-off technologies and products/services within India and internationally.

NSIL's Previous Mission and Operations:

  • Previous Mission: NSIL's successful mission, GSAT-24, launched in June 2022, secured its capacity fully for Tata Play, funded entirely by NSIL.
  • Current Operations: NSIL presently owns and operates 11 communication satellites in orbit.

Noteworthy Contracts and Engagements:

  • OneWeb Satellite Launches: NSIL secured a contract with OneWeb, launching batches of satellites for their satellite internet constellation. Notably, NSIL deployed sets of 36 OneWeb satellites on multiple occasions, contributing to OneWeb's satellite network in low Earth orbit (LEO).
  • Defense Procurement Agreement: The Ministry of Defence signed a ₹3,000-crore agreement with NSIL for the procurement of the GSAT 7B advanced communication satellite. This procurement aims to meet the communication needs of the Indian Army, highlighting NSIL's role in facilitating space-based assets for defense applications.

Contributions and Role in India's Space Industry:

  • NSIL's establishment signifies a pivotal step towards expanding private sector participation in India's space endeavors, allowing for collaboration and co-development in manufacturing, launches, and services related to space technology.
  • The collaboration with private entities and government bodies like the Ministry of Defence showcases NSIL's dual role in commercial satellite launches and providing crucial space-based assets for national defense and communication purposes.


India's reliance on Arianespace consortium (Ariane 5) for heavy satellite launches shifted to SpaceX due to Ariane 5 retirement and delays with Ariane 6 launches. India's current rockets lack the capability to launch very heavy satellites (beyond 4 ton class) to geostationary orbit, a gap planned to be addressed with the introduction of the Next Generation Launch Vehicle (NGLV).


Q. Discuss the significance of NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) in advancing India's space endeavors and its mandate in the context of recent developments in the space sector reforms. (250 Words)