India hails rocket 'cheaper than Hollywood film Gravity'

Published: June 30, 2014
India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C23), carrying five satellites, lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, north of the southern Indian city of Chennai. PHOTO:REUTERS

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C23), carrying five satellites, lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, north of the southern Indian city of Chennai. PHOTO:REUTERS

BANGALORE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed India’s low-cost space technology on Monday, saying a rocket which launched four foreign satellites into orbit had cost less to make than the Hollywood film “Gravity.”

India’s domestically-produced Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) blasted off Monday morning from the southern spaceport of Sriharikota, carrying satellites from France, Germany, Canada and Singapore.

“India has the potential to be the launch service provider of the world and must work towards this goal,” Modi said from the site, one month after coming to power at the head of a right-wing government.

Satellite launch industry revenues totalled $2.2 billion in 2012, according to the US Satellite Industry Association, and India is keen to expand its modest share of this market as a low-cost provider.

“I have heard about the film Gravity. I am told the cost of sending an Indian rocket to space is less than the money invested in making the Hollywood movie,” Modi added.

The budget of the British-American 3D sci-fi thriller, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, was about $100 million, according to industry website IMDb.

Last year, India launched a bid to become the first Asian nation to reach Mars with a mission whose price tag was the envy of space programmes world-wide.

The total cost at INR 4.5 billion ($73 million) was less than a sixth of the $455 million earmarked for a Mars probe launched shortly afterwards by US space agency NASA.

Experts say the secret is India’s ability to copy and adapt existing space technology for its own needs, and the abundance of highly-skilled engineers who earn a fraction of their foreign counterparts’ wages.

Modi said the country must be proud of its space programme, developed in the face of “great international pressure and hurdles”

Western sanctions on India after the nation staged a nuclear weapons test in 1974 gave a major thrust to the space programme because New Delhi needed to develop its own missile technology.

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Reader Comments (37)

  • sharabi
    Jun 30, 2014 - 5:23PM

    Great achievement for INDIAN PSLV Vehicle 26 successful out of 27
    The plus point is that ISRO Commercial subsidiary Antrix is making a huge profit from launching the foreign Satellites & Payloads.
    Congrats to ISRO & ANTRIX


  • anshul
    Jun 30, 2014 - 5:32PM

    good going India keep it up. Modi going to make “brand-India”


  • Jun 30, 2014 - 5:36PM

    Well done India. The Indian Space Program has continuous hits.


  • truthplease
    Jun 30, 2014 - 5:46PM

    ET Can you please publish the names of the so called “experts” mentioned in the article? Is that Superco’s chief director Zaid Hamid?


  • ModiFied
    Jun 30, 2014 - 5:55PM

    I expected Et to pick up the portion of Modi’s speech pertaining to what he said about SAARC; ( Modi said that India should develop a satellite for SAARC which can be used for education and for the poor of the region. Please highlight that portion of his speech and if possible get it debated at your TV channels. Modi is making bold initiatives to integrate SAARC.


  • Azeez
    Jun 30, 2014 - 6:04PM

    Proud to be an INDIAN


  • Aseem
    Jun 30, 2014 - 6:05PM

    Pakistan vouched to go nuclear after India tested first nukes in 1974. Wish Pakistan also vouches to be polio free like India and to compete (and eventually cooperate) in space technology and other productive areas.


  • Dr Dang (tm)
    Jun 30, 2014 - 6:09PM

    This is no news. The world knows India does space craft launches cheaper than any other country with pretty high success rate.
    Members of the SAARC should take note & co-operate to benefit from this.


  • Mega
    Jun 30, 2014 - 6:13PM

    It has helped us generate revenue for the country. We must invest more into science and technology and expand our commercial space industry. It will help address problems in agriculture,climate,security etc as well as increase our revenue. The western companies charge a ton for everything be medicine,doctors,consumer products,space,defence etc. A flexible ipad bed stand “cord” costs around 4000 rupees when converted 4m $ . The same 12inch cord would cost around 600 or less if made here. Talk about overcharging for anything and everything and looting other countries. We need to expand more and become manufacturing hub. Hail Asian century!


  • Sazid Khan
    Jun 30, 2014 - 6:16PM

    The Government have spend more than 500$ million on this Rocket launch..The Government have raised the Railway fare by 14% claiming that government earning huge loss if it is true than why are not investing such money in railway…Oil and gas companies are suffering huge loss everyday why are not using such money to pay off the bill…This type of projects can be used later if such important things like to tackle inflation, reducing food price, oil and gas prices..


  • How Long ?
    Jun 30, 2014 - 6:17PM

    How long shall we boast our cheap products ? We should invest more in technology and science . But by-producing machines and uneducated conservative masses in India don’t allow us to do that . We have proved our mettle in every field , it’s time we aspire more .Recommend

  • unbelievable
    Jun 30, 2014 - 6:19PM

    Kudos – expensive doesn’t always equate to the best. Cost effective rockets used for peaceful purposes is something the World can use.


  • Varun Sharma
    Jun 30, 2014 - 6:31PM

    “Experts say the secret is India’s ability to copy and adapt existing space technology for its own needs, and the abundance of highly-skilled engineers who earn a fraction of their foreign counterparts’ wages.”

    And how many countries are there to copy from who have sent their missions to mars successfully and shared the information with India?


  • salman
    Jun 30, 2014 - 6:59PM

    P.S India is set to sign $20 billion Rafale deal with France. Perhaps all the money saved from that trash rocket launch goes here. So much for their cost effective mentality.


  • Abu
    Jun 30, 2014 - 7:00PM

    ” Experts say the secret is India’s ability to copy and adapt existing space technology for its own needs ” – Not possible as the developed World never shares Space / Missile Technologies with any countries.
    India has succeeded because of its interest and investment in this field.Recommend

  • Pramod Joshi
    Jun 30, 2014 - 7:08PM

    @Sazid Khan: It’s a commercial venture. India earned through it.


  • KDP
    Jun 30, 2014 - 7:11PM

    It is time simply to say “BJP Government” rather than “Right Wing Government”.

    Wish you also reported the following comment that Modi made.

    “We should develop a satellite that we can dedicate to our neighbourhood and help SAARC nations achieve its objectives of access to education, and challenges of achieving scientific accomplishments,” said Modi.


  • BlackJack
    Jun 30, 2014 - 7:28PM

    @Sazid Khan:
    The Government have spend more than 500$ million on this Rocket launch.
    First you need to take the time to read the article.
    India’s domestically-produced Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) blasted off Monday morning from the southern spaceport of Sriharikota, carrying satellites from France, Germany, Canada and Singapore.
    So now who do you think is paying for the launches? And where do you cook up these numbers from?


  • Mega
    Jun 30, 2014 - 7:56PM

    “Expert say the secret is india ability to copy and adapt existing space technology for its own good”. This statement reeks jealously. There are 196 countries in the world if this statement was true please answer why iran,Dubai,japan,South Korea and many other developed country or developing ones out of 196 weren’t able to achieve what india has achieved? Shudnt they have done it ages befor india if it was indeed a copy paste and free? That too when they had money and technological prowess, efficient bureaucracy and less hurdles compared to us? How many countries have developed and sent missions to Mars and moon? How many countries succeeded despite nuclear sanctions and barring and banning of sensitive technology transfer? Accept it, indian science and space community is one of the best in the world that produces and builds according to its own brains, needs and goals. Sanctions were the best thing that happened to us in the 90s. It made us realise to not depend on others to give us techs but make our own and fly, be self reliant.


  • String theory.
    Jun 30, 2014 - 8:24PM

    This is difference to invest in engineering institutions and one metro project in presence meager resources. Pak should have visionary leader to invest in engineering universities . ONe Indian state Karnataka has 200 engineering schools with population equal to KPK


  • Raj - USA
    Jun 30, 2014 - 8:35PM

    Here are some interesting link:

    China is far ahead of India in carrying heavy payloads to space. But how did China achieve this?

    In the 80’s, China offered incentives to many US private companies to launch their satellites from China. The US companies found it much cheaper alternative. However, there were many failures. So, in their own interest, the US companies sent their scientists to China and taught them on the mistakes they were making that caused the launch failures. China learnt fast and rectified the errors. Later in the 90’s, US government launched investigation on few such US companies for passing on classified technology to China clandestinely. Some companies were fined. However, China had the foresight to offer all incentives to US companies and in the process they gained valuable technology.

    As someone has commented above, India should not be boasting of cheap costs alone and must make technological advances and try to bring in newer products and technology.


  • Bewildered
    Jun 30, 2014 - 9:25PM


    “This statement reeks jealously.”

    Why AFP, the merely news providing agency, should be jealous of India’s marvelous technical and scientific achievements which have left Germany, France, and Canada far far behind in R&D in scientific technical, and industrial fields? Would you please elaborate?


  • Jun 30, 2014 - 9:53PM

    Sanctions were imposed on both Pakistan and India. While India took them as a blessing in disguise to prove their real capabilities, Pakistan failed to identify its own capabilities and its philosophy for progress. while our nuclear ambitions eaten away all our resources. After we exploded a nuclear device to challenge India’s nuclear test, we failed miserably to compete with India in all other fields. Our habit of moving as a piggyback either to US and China cost us our self respect.


  • Mega
    Jun 30, 2014 - 10:16PM

    @biwildered because whenever china progresses its talks about their human rights and pathetic wages,artificial low currency or global warming pollution in same sentence. About india success they would bring poverty or some ridiculous statement. To them such milestone is only western property and birthright. When Asian country does something like that they see it with vary and disdain and find some or the other fault. If its a weaker nation with potential to rule a region they will war sighting nuclear weapons like Iraq,Libya(oil) or sanctions like iran for nuclear energy. Whenever they find challengers they try to downplay or sabotage it. And if indeed their statement is true, tell me why rest country wasn’t able to achieve this, when these info was avail to all for copy sighted by the called agency right ? Accept it all those country who have space,defence missile mission guard their techs and don’t transfer technology know how for their own selfish interest. Who wants competitors? And more people jointing their elite club of sole proprietor?


  • Strategic Asset
    Jun 30, 2014 - 11:03PM

    The AFP report has many factual errors, most of all the title. What Modi actually said was:

    The story of our Mars Mission costing less than the Hollywood movie Gravity, had gone viral on social media recently.

    Transcript of the full speech is available from CNN IBN here. I saw the entire speech and can corroborate that he compared the cost of “Gravity” with the cost of the Mars Mission and not the PSLV launch.

    What this AFP report also does not say, but what Modi stressed on in his speech, is that 4 developed nations (France, Canada, Germany and Singapore) paid ISRO to deliver their payloads into orbit.


  • Sam@ABE
    Jul 1, 2014 - 12:19AM

    Once upon a time, Destiny came across some Indians and she offered them a choice. In one hand, she held a magic begging bowl and in the other, she held a bag containing equal parts of technology, blood, sweat and tears. If you held the magic begging bowl in front of nations, they would immediately cough up $100 million dollars and it was free. The bag cost a million dollars and the returns could be $0 or $ billions. The Indians decided to choose the bag…. she then went with the magical begging bowl to the Pakistanis …


  • realist
    Jul 1, 2014 - 12:38AM

    PM Modi has asked ISRO scientists to develop satellites for SAARC countries based on their (SAARC countries) needs. This is an unique opportunity where Suparco can collaborate with ISRO.


  • John B
    Jul 1, 2014 - 2:27AM

    The readers are going out of focus on the Indian rocket launch.

    As in nuclear technology, India took a distinctive approach and adapted polar (orbit) launch vehicle as the platform for her space research and development and she launched her first satellite in 1972 and has come a long way.

    India should be proud in operating a commercial venture along with research and development venture. Cost alone is irrelevant and I am sure PM made the comment in joke as it was supposed to imply.

    The future of any country is in conquering space and energy. I am impressed by Modi’s statement of his vision of SAARC and India space program.

    Challenge : who is going to bring an astroid back to earth -Astroid mining anyone ?


  • Zaid Hamid
    Jul 1, 2014 - 2:41AM

    Now Pakistan will “test-fire” 2 missiles to show they are superior to India.


  • Professor
    Jul 1, 2014 - 7:38AM

    @Zaid Hamid:
    Save the money to pay the next IMF instalment. Gone are the days when Pakistan could match India. You should play in your own league. Otherwise, trying to keep up will lead to an economic collapse like that of the Soviet Union.


  • Sri Varahadev
    Jul 1, 2014 - 1:58PM

    @ Zaid Hamid


    ……………. Or maybe it is cheaper than a test fire to bask in the rhetoric of the 2003 comment of then Pakistan Military Dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf:

    “Pakistan’s space programme is now ahead of India after the formal launching of Paksat-I and this is due to the hard work of our scientists and I am sure Indians would take another 30 months to do the job”


  • Last Word
    Jul 1, 2014 - 3:46PM

    Besides India spectacular achievement in space technology, it was Modi’s speech in flawless English which floored many Indians including the scientists. The Indian PM never spoke a word of English and always addressed all his meetings in Hindi so far. Many believed that Modi might employ an interpreter during his meetings with foreign dignitaries. He spoke for 25 minutes in English without using any aid and making no grammatical mistake was a revelation to many Indians. He may be preparing for a joint address to both houses of US Senate in September which will be good for his confidence and by that time he can improve his accent a bit more.


  • Vivek Kumar
    Jul 1, 2014 - 5:27PM

    After the successful launch of PSLV now lets help our brethren from SAARC with their satellite.


  • young
    Jul 1, 2014 - 6:35PM

    next one is the real monster- GSLV mk3, first developmental flight within a month or two…


  • Jul 1, 2014 - 6:52PM

    @Last Word
    Most of RSS workers and supporters are highly intellectuals. One can’t find speeches of RSS leaders (Because are rare) but when they speak there is charm and knowledge.
    In my view speaking impressive Hindi is more difficult than English.!Recommend

  • Mahesh Patil
    Jul 2, 2014 - 3:31PM

    @Sri Varahadev: @Professor:
    Zaid Hamid’s comments are always sarcastic.


  • Rakib
    Jul 2, 2014 - 5:35PM

    Modi talking of a SAARC satelite was a statesman-like statement, in keeping with the initiative taken by him on occasion of his swearing-in.. Pity that it did not get the kind of notice it should have got. Fault lies with BJP’s PR-machine/Internet brigade, which is good only for bad-mouthing others rather than highlighting this gestures of its leader.


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