NEW DELHI: The US ire over the Indo-Russian deal could well have more to do with the satellite fabrication than with missiles ‘There is evidence that the sanctions under the missile technology control regime (MTCR) were imposed more out of the fear of commercial threat to the US satellite fabrication industry as well as the satellite launch programs rather than the threat of proliferation of missile technology.

India is still struggling with its space launch vehicle program but its satellite design development and manufacturing program is much further ahead After the success of the Indian remote sensing (IRS) satellites the first in the series of totally indigenous INSAT 2 (Indian national satellite) awaits it maiden launch next month.

This is precisely what has given the jitters to the satellite fabricators in the United States Already countries like China and Russia and Europe’s Ariane have eaten into the lucrative satellite launch market. And now the main US preserve satellite fabrication is coming under increasing threat. Naturally the prospect of seeing more competition in this field is wholly unwelcome to them.

Over and above their respective strengths an “Indo-Russian joint effort can pay rich dividends If India and Russia acknowledged leaders in the field of launch vehicles make joint offers for fabrication and launch of a satellite than “the US can never hope to match” their rates.

An Indian scientist remembered being surprise during his first visit to a Soviet launch site when he found that a satellite was being weighed on a rudimentary heavy duty scale the sort that is used in India to measure bags of grain of coal. On being asked as to what impact such inaccurate weighing would have on the launch the Soviet counterpart smiled and reassured that the Soviet launchers were tremendously over-designed A kilogram one way or the other would make no difference!

Many are convinced that the rocket technology deal has given the US just the excuse to come down on India’s satellite fabrication plan itself. The sanctions on Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) have cut out the supply of many critical electronic equipment’s and devices which are used not only in satellite launch vehicles but also in the fabrication of satellites.

India has been able to make practically no strategically important electronic devices on its own ever since the country’s only integrated chip manufacturing facility Semiconductor Complex Ltd. was devastated in a fire on February 7-8,1989.

Why is it suspected that the sanctions under MTCR are trade related and not security related? The technology in question of cryogenic engines cannot be used for missile launches. Use of liquid oxygen and hydrogen as propellants in such engines not only means that it will take days to prepare the vehicle for launch but once prepared it cannot be held over for more than 24 hours as the storage has to be one at minus 200 degree C.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 29, 1992