MUMBAI (TIP): India has signed a master partnership agreement to become a full-fledged partner of the $1.5-billion five-member international Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) project. On completion, the Hawaii-situated TMT is said to “become the most advanced and powerful optical telescope on Earth”. Following the agreement signed on July 26, India will now be moving from its current observer status to becoming a full-fledged partner of the project with a 10% share.

This implies a financial commitment of around Rs 1,000 crores, the department of science and technology said on Thursday. The department, along with the department of Atomic energy, will fund the Indian component. Set to become operational in 2022, the project has four other countries as partners, namely Canada, China, Japan and the US. TMT is promoted mainly by Caltech, the University of California and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research and Astronomy. The in-principle approval of India’s participation was accorded in 2010.

However, the go-ahead from the legal section of the external affairs ministry came on July 24. Besides the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, the other participating institutions are the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, and the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences, Nainital. Much of India’s contribution will be in-kind, with Indian institutes and industry collaborating to build most of the telescope’s control systems. India will also be contributing the mirror coating systems of the telescope.