Context: The recently released ‘Indian Space Policy 2023’ provides a much-needed impetus for India’s entry into the Second Space Age, laying the foundation for private sector participation.
A brief Overview on India’s Space Sector
- The Indian space sector has evolved from its early days of satellite development and launching capabilities to achieving milestones in lunar exploration, Mars mission success, and expanding applications of space technology for societal development.
- The Indian space sector constitutes just 2% of the global market share, which has potential to become 9% by 2030. (USA comprises 40%).
- The Indian Space Sector has been globally recognised for building cost-effective satellites, and now India is even taking foreign satellites to space.
- Today, while ISRO’s budget is approximately $1.6 billion, India’s space economy is over $9.6 billion. It is estimated that with an enabling environment, the Indian space industry could grow to $60 billion by 2030, directly creating more than two lakh jobs.
What are Major Provisions of Indian Space Policy (ISP) 2023?
- Vision of the policy: To “enable, encourage and develop a flourishing commercial presence in space”.
- Delineation of Roles: ISP delineates responsibility to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), New Space India Limited (NSIL), and Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe).
|NSIL||The operational part of ISRO’s missions will be moved to the NSIL.
Strategic activities related to the space sector will be carried out by NSIL in demand-driven mode.
NSIL is a wholly owned Government of India Company, under the administrative control of Department of Space.
As ISRO’s commercial arm, NSIL will become the interface for interacting with the industry, undertake commercial negotiations and provide hand-holding support to ensure smooth and efficient transfer of technologies.
|ISRO||ISRO will transition out of the existing practice of being present in the manufacturing of operational space systems. Hereafter, mature systems shall be transferred to industries for commercial exploitation.
ISRO shall focus on R&D in advanced technology, proving newer systems and realisation of space objects for meeting national prerogatives.
Another of ISRO’s tasks in the new policy is to “share technologies, products, processes and best practices with NGEs (non-government entities) and/or Government companies”.
|INSPACe||This agency will be the interface between ISRO and non-governmental entities.
To facilitate private sector participation, the government has created the IN-SPACe, as a single window, independent, nodal agency under Department of Space. Its main mandate is to promote and enhance the role of Non-Government Entities in the space sector by providing them with a level playing field.
Finally, IN-SPACe is expected to create a “stable and predictable regulatory framework” that will ensure a level playing field for the NGEs. It will act as a promoter by setting up industry clusters and as the regulator, issue guidelines on liability issues.
- Private Sector Participation: ISP seeks to institutionalize the private sector participation in the space sector, with ISRO focusing on research and development of advanced space technologies.
- NGEs (this includes the private sector) are “allowed to undertake end-to-end activities in the space sector through establishment and operation of space objects, ground-based assets and related services, such as communication, remote sensing, navigation, etc.”.
- Satellites could be self-owned, procured or leased; communication services could be over India or outside; and remote sensing data could be disseminated in India or abroad.
- NGEs can design and operate launch vehicles for space transportation and establish their own infrastructure.
- NGEs can now make filings with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and engage in commercial recovery of asteroid resources.
- In short, the entire gamut of space activities is now open to the private sector. Security agencies can task NGEs for procuring tailor-made solutions to address specific requirements.
Need for Inclusion of Private Sector in India’s Space Policy
- India Lagging Behind Other Nations: Though private startups such as Agnikul Cosmos, Skyroot Aerospace, and Dhruva have launched their respective missions, India is still at a nascent stage in the private space race, well behind other nations.
- Though the government has taken steps to boost private-sector participation in space, many companies have said the large number of approvals required remains a huge barrier.
- ISP will pave the way forward with much-required clarity in space reforms and augment private industry participation to drive the space economy opportunity for the country.
- Emerging Space Industry: Indian space industry comprises of just 2% of global market share, and this space policy will help it increase substantially to 10% in the future.
- Break the Monopoly of ISRO: The space sector has remained within the confines of ISRO with full budgetary support from the government. By institutionalizing the private sector, the ISP breaks the monopoly ISRO-driven space sector.
- Boost Investment by Private Sector: Allowing private companies to perform space missions has benefited nations such as the United States by promoting private sector investment.
- For example, Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets have become a popular choice for space missions around the world.
- Foster Innovation in Space Sector: Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and Arianespace have revolutionized the space sector by reducing costs and turnaround time, with innovation and advanced technology.
- In India however, players within the private space industry have been limited to being vendors or suppliers to the government’s space program.
- ISP’s thrust on privatization will enable the space sector to be more innovative and sustainable. It is crucial if India wants to be competitive in global space ecosystems.
- Boost Employment: Promoting the private sector will enable the Indian space program to remain cost competitive within the global space market, and thus create several jobs in the space and other related sectors.
- Better Governance: Optimal utilization of space technologies can revolutionize delivery of governance services and boost developmental efforts.
- Foster National Security: India needs to actively participate in the emergence of cutting- edge space technology, to ensure national security and aligned strategic interests.
Gaps in the Indian Space Policy 2023
- Lack of Timeframe: The policy lacks a specific timeframe for implementation and the transition of ISRO’s practices, as well as the establishment of the regulatory framework by IN-SPACe. This makes it difficult to assess the progress and implementation of the policy.
- Absence of Clear Rules and Regulations: The policy framework requires clear and detailed rules and regulations in several areas, including foreign direct investment (FDI) and licensing, government procurement to support new space start-ups, liability provisions in case of violations, and an appellate framework for dispute settlement.
- Ambiguity in IN-SPACe’s Position and Authority: Currently, IN-SPACe’s position is ambiguous as it functions under the purview of the Department of Space. The Secretary (Space) is also Chairman of ISRO, the government entity to be regulated by IN-SPACe.
- Legislative Authority: The establishment of a regulatory body like IN-SPACe requires legislative authority to ensure its effectiveness and legitimacy. The absence of a dedicated legislation could hinder its ability to enforce regulations and provide a robust regulatory framework for the space industry.
- Addressing the above gaps would involve providing a specific timeframe for implementation, formulating clear rules and regulations, clarifying IN-SPACe’s position and authority, and enacting dedicated legislation to empower the regulatory body.
- These steps are crucial to translate the vision of the ISP 2023 into a comprehensive and actionable plan to propel India into the Second Space Age successfully.