💎 Chandrayaan-3 and the Rise of India's Space Prowess


On 23 August, 6:04 pm, with the landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the Moon, India created history. The journey of Chandrayaan-3 was observed with great anticipation, joy, pride, and patriotism.

In this newsletter, we will explore the exciting odyssey of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), India's space agency, analyse the cost of Chandrayaan-3, follow the journeys of ISRO and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), analyse companies that are directly impacted by the mission's success, and gaze into the future of the Indian space sector.

Space sector in India - An overview

India's emergence as a space power has been a fascinating journey marked by innovation, ambition, and fiscal pragmatism. The country's space sector has grown significantly over the past decade, symbolising India's technological prowess and strategic capabilities. Here's an overview of the landscape:

Budget allocations and expenditures

111 newsletter -  Chandrayaan-01.jpg

ISRO has operated on a principle of efficiency and economic wisdom. The budget allocation for ISRO in the financial year 2022-23 stood at INR 12543.91 crores (approx. $1.9 billion).

Here's a breakdown of the significant allocations:

  • Satellite development: INR 531 crores is earmarked for INSAT (The Indian National Satellite System). This includes the development of communication, navigation, and earth observation satellites.
  • Space technology: INR 9440.66 crores, including the Mars Orbiter Mission and Chandrayaan-3.
  • Space applications: INR 1558.95 crores for all the activities of ISRO Centres such as Space Applications Centre, Development and Educational Communication Unit, National Remote Sensing Centre, Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, various Space Application Projects and Programmes, etc.
  • Space exploration: INR 138.80 crores for expenses of Space Science Programmes such as Aditya-L1, Chandrayaan-III, X-Ray Polarimeter Mission, and Space Docking Experiment Mission.

ISRO: from humble beginnings to stellar heights

The story of ISRO is an exemplary saga of resilience, innovation, and nation-building. From launching small rockets from a village church in Thumba, Kerala, to sending spacecraft to interplanetary destinations, ISRO has come a long way.

Here's a quick timeline of ISROs journey:

111 newsletter -  Chandrayaan-05.jpg

The economics of Chandrayaan-3

As ISRO's ambitious continuation of its lunar exploration saga, Chandrayaan-3 is set to make headlines for its scientific goals and economic implications. Let's delve deep into the financial aspects of this monumental project.

  1. Project cost: Chandrayaan-3 is unique in its mission design, primarily focusing on a soft landing on the Moon's surface without the need for an orbiter. With an overall budget of INR 615 crores (approximately $83 million), this high-profile project is more cost-effective than its predecessors.

  2. Allocation of funds: The financial blueprint of Chandrayaan-3 can be dissected into the following components:

    • Launch vehicle: A significant portion of the budget, approximately INR 365 crores ($49 million), is allocated to the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).
    • Lander and rover development: Building on the experiences of Chandrayaan-2, ISRO has earmarked around INR 250 crores ($34 million) for the development of the lander and rover.

The financial anatomy of Chandrayaan-3 paints a picture of meticulous planning, innovation, and strategic investment. The project embodies India's scientific ambitions and exemplifies the country's prowess in executing complex missions within a financially astute framework.

A lot more, with a lot less

In space exploration, the phrase "rocket science" is synonymous with complexity, innovation, and, of course, exorbitant costs. However, ISRO has consistently challenged this notion by achieving incredible feats with relatively modest budgets.

ISRO's cost-efficient approach is not just a strategy; it has become its signature. Here's a glance at how it outperforms even the most advanced space agencies, like NASA, in this aspect:

111 newsletter -  Chandrayaan-03.jpg

  • Chandrayaan-1: India's first lunar probe, launched in 2008, cost around INR 386 crores, a fraction of similar missions by other space agencies.
  • Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission): Launched in 2013, this mission cost approximately INR 450 crores.
  • Chandrayan-3: The latest mission from ISRO—Chandrayaan-3 project cost around INR 615 crores, which is way less than Chandrayan- 2's cost.
  • Chandrayaan-2: Launched in 2019, this mission cost approximately INR 978 crores.

It's often noted that this mission cost less than the production of the Hollywood film Interstellar, which had a budget of around INR 1000 crores.

ISRO's secret sauce

So how does ISRO accomplish its projects at such competitive costs? The following factors play a crucial role:

  • Frugality and innovation: ISRO emphasises frugal engineering and in-house manufacturing. Its ability to innovate and adapt existing technologies rather than reinvent the wheel significantly cuts costs.
  • Workforce: With a dedicated team that often works long hours, ISRO maximises human resources without overburdening the budget.
  • Standardisation: Utilising standardised designs and components across various projects has led to efficiencies in both time and cost.
  • Government support: ISRO benefits from strong governmental backing, enabling streamlined processes and supportive regulations.

Here's a look at other space agencies in the world

111 newsletter -  Chandrayaan-02.jpg

  • Budget: NASA's budget for 2021 was around $23.3 billion, whereas ISRO's budget for the same period was~$1.5 billion.
  • Mission costs: Take, for instance, NASA's Maven Mars mission, which cost around $582.5 million. In contrast, ISRO's Mangalyaan was executed at a fraction of that cost.

ISRO's frugal yet effective approach has garnered international acclaim. Its commercial arm, Antrix Corporation, has attracted clients worldwide for satellite launches, reflecting global confidence in ISRO's capabilities.

ISRO's achievements are a testament to the power of innovation, persistence, and a well-defined vision. The global space industry can learn valuable lessons from ISRO's playbook on executing world-class projects without astronomical budgets.

The future of the Indian space sector

Chandrayaan-3 is a harbinger of India's ambitious space future. With a growing emphasis on commercial space ventures and global collaboration, India's space industry is poised for a galactic leap.

Here are key trends:

  • Private participation: With new policies encouraging private investment, companies like Reliance Aerospace are entering the space sector.
  • Global outreach: India's cost-effective missions are attracting international partnerships.
  • Education and research: The government is investing in space science education, nurturing future scientists and engineers.

Chandrayaan-3's launch symbolises more than a scientific expedition to the Moon. It reflects India's aspiration, ingenuity, and financial acumen in the space arena.

Whether you're a space enthusiast, investor, or curious observer, the landing of Chandrayaan-3 is a momentous chapter in India's space odyssey. It's financial sensibility and scientific curiosity resonate with the ethos of a new India, reaching for the stars, grounded in wisdom and prudence.