Antrix to have new Chairman

New Delhi: India`s apex space policy body on Saturday set in motion a process to restructure Antrix Corporation, ISRO`s commercial arm, against the backdrop of a controversial two-satellite deal it had struck with a private firm.

The Space Commission, at a meeting here, formed a search committee to identify a Chairman-cum-Managing Director for Antrix.

Secretary, Department of Space is also the Chairman of Space Commission, ISRO and Antrix Corporation. Currently, K Radhakrishnan holds the posts.

After the new appointment, Radhkrishnan would no longer hold the top post in Antrix.

Antrix would continue to have a technocrat as its head but for the first time, since its creation in 1992, the person would not be the ISRO chief.

Radhakrishnan said the decision to have a CMD fo Antrix was taken considering its business expansion and a newly conferred `mini-ratna` status.

However, he maintained that there was no complete restructuring of ISRO`s commercial arm.

A three-member search committee is expected to suggest three names for the newly created post. Till now Antrix had a Managing Director K Sridhara Murthy, who retired in September last year. An executive director has been appointed to look into the day-to-day affairs of Antrix till the new incumbent takes charge.

The Space Commission was also apprised of the action taken in connection with termination of Antrix`s two satellite deal with Devas Multimedia which media reports claimed could have caused loss of Rs two lakh crore to the exchequer.

Radhakrishnan said ISRO had circulated a detailed note on the deal with Devas which was under consideration of the Cabinet Committee on Security.

Antrix stands to pay penalties on two counts if the deal is cancelled, firstly on the delay in delivery of the satellite and the annual payment for the life of the satellite.

Radhakrishnan said the contract needed to be annulled given the requirement of the S-band spectrum for strategic purposes.

He said the demand of the strategic sector for the scarce spectrum had increased five-fold in the last five years.

The Space Commission, at its meeting in July last year, had recommended annulment of the contract with Devas under which the private firm, floated by ex-ISRO officials, was to get on lease 90 per cent of the S-band transponders on two satellites — GSAT 6 and GSAT 6A for its novel Digital Broadcast Audio Service.

Antrix had signed the contract in January 2005 and had got sanction of the Space Commission and the Union Cabinet for the two satellites without informing them that bulk capacity would be leased to Devas Multimedia.

In December 2009, ISRO ordered a review of the deal and subsequently Space Commission recommended its annulment on July 2, 2010. The Commission had also suggested restructuring Antrix and a report on the matter had been submitted to ISRO subsequently.