India, US talk cooperation in space research
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Close on the heels of the civilian nuclear cooperation, India is negotiating another important agreement with the United States, this time in the area of space research and exploration.
The governments of India and the US are talking to finalise a Commercial Launch Agreement which will ensure that the licensing procedures are made easier for satellites containing American components and being launched by an Indian vehicle. Under US law, licences are required for all American parts used in a satellite, especially if the satellite is to be launched from another country.
But the procedure is not uniform. In some cases, like the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which has been undertaking commercial launches on PSLV and GSLV for some time, the licensing procedure is slightly more difficult and takes longer than some of its rivals like Arianspace in France.
This causes delay in importing these parts from the US. Satellite owners therefore prefer to approach other launching authorities where the licensing procedure is smoother. As a result, ISRO is losing some of its customers who prefer to launch their satellites from other agencies.
"The licensing requirement is basically an effort by the US to protect its technology. But we stand to lose our business because of this," said a top official of a government organisation who did not want to be named.
"So now the governments of the two countries are talking to reach a broad political understanding which will enable a simpler procedure for launch of such satellites on Indian vehicles," he said. The official said initial exchanges between the two governments had already taken place.
Such an agreement would also ensure faster supplies of components from the US companies for India's own satellites.
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