With speculations and rumours abounding on shifting of its human space mission centre and the headquarters of private-sector space regulator Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), officials of the Indian space agency are a worried lot.
Serving and retired senior officials of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), speaking on the condition of anonymity, told IANS that there is speculation about shifting the human space mission centre out of Bengaluru and also locating the IN-SPACe headquarters in Delhi or the Gift City in Gujarat.
"There are strong rumours of having the human space mission centre in Gujarat and the IN-SPACe headquarters in Delhi. There are also rumours that incumbent ISRO Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space, K. Sivan might get a service extension for six more months," a source told IANS.
Sivan's term comes to an end in January 2022.
However, a senior official told IANS: "The speculation about shifting of the human space mission centre is surprising. Already the Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) is functioning in Bengaluru where the ISRO is headquartered."
"For the past two weeks these rumours and speculations have been circulating across the ISRO. But no official clarity has come out till now," another official told IANS.
As a part of space sector reforms, the ISRO will be tasked with research and development, while NewSpace India Ltd will get the satellites and rockets manufactured and own the same. It will also give orders to launch the satellites.
"As a result, the Department of Space can also be shifted to Delhi from Bengaluru," another space scientist told IANS.
ISRO Staff Association General Secretary G.R.Pramod told IANS that there is "uncertainty all around about the future of about 17,300 employees of ISRO".
"The ISRO top management should come out openly and address the employee concerns at the earliest," he demanded.
According to officials, the uncertainty in the minds of ISRO officials is due to the communication from the government to freeze all recruitments as sectoral reforms are underway - allowing the private sector players in making and launching of satellites and rockets.
The ISRO officials also told IANS that promotions for several categories were kept on hold for the past two years. The promotion exercise for some has been carried out recently.
"Further the number of rocket launches this year from India came down drastically to just two from six or seven per year at an average. Out of two one critical mission for the country had failed," an official said.
However, seeking to scotch the speculations and rumours, Sivan told IANS: "IN-SPACe is scouting for a suitable location and have visited a couple of places."
On shifting of the human space mission centre out of Bengaluru, he said: "There is no idea to shift the centre. We are now working from the existing centre located inside the ISRO complex."
Queried about the delay in testing of the solid fuel motor of its small rocket - Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) - under development, Sivan said: "The insulations for the solid motor casing have to be cured naturally. Owing to the rains and humid conditions such curing could not happen and hence it is delayed."
On the rocket/satellite launches this year, he said: "While the solid fuel motors are at the rocket port, the other stages and equipment have to come from other centres. We don't want to risk bringing the huge equipment during rains. Some more time is needed for launch. The satellite is fine."
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)