Wednesday, May 29, 2024

India’s Space Race: ISpA Champions Privatisation, Stakeholder Collaboration & Self-Reliance Amid Growing Concerns Of Space Wars & ASAT Tests

By Staff Correspondent

The recent conflict between Russia and Ukraine has shed light on the growing need for nations to be ‘space ready’ in the modern era. With commercial space facilities increasingly utilised in conflicts, military and civilian stakeholders are deliberating on how India can establish itself as a space power. In this context, the Indian Space Association (ISpA), an apex industry body organised a three-day seminar that brought together industry players, military experts, and other stakeholders to brainstorm the challenges and opportunities presented by the newly released Indian Space Policy 2023. The policy aims to promote privatisation to attract investment and technical expertise to achieve self-reliance in space.

During the seminar, Lieutenant General Anil Kumar Bhatt (r), the Director General of ISpA, emphasised the significance of private players in the Indian space industry. He highlighted that startups such as Skyroot Aerospace, despite being established only in 2018, are already making a difference in the space sector. The DG ISpA emphasised that private players will be crucial in India’s space reliance in defence and civilian applications.

Lt. Gen. Bhatt (r) pointed out that space has already played a significant role in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. He highlighted the importance of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites for communication, citing examples of how Starlink maintained communications with Ukraine despite Russian jamming and how the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) satellites provided real-time information to the forces. He emphasised that the importance of ISR and communication has come to the forefront in the Ukraine conflict.

The role of satellites, their types, and the numbers India needs remain debated. Lt. Gen. S.L. Narasimhan, a former member of the National Security Advisory Board and former DG of the Centre for Contemporary China Studies, emphasised the need for diversification to meet all of India’s defence requirements in space. He highlighted the strategic requirement for a combination of satellites, including navigational satellites, surveillance satellites, optical sensors, and more, to conserve and defend assets and facilitate ground, air, and naval forces operations.

Many space experts believe that China will be India’s space rival in the foreseeable future, and concerns were raised about China’s increasing number of satellites compared to India.

Lt. Gen. Narasimhan highlighted the need to address China’s satellite dominance over India, as having satellites positioned nearby is crucial for timely coverage of any event or area of interest.

In addition to satellites, another growing concern in the international space community is the proliferation of Anti-Satellite (ASAT) tests. China’s ASAT test in 2007 caught India and the world by surprise, and India responded with its own ASAT test, ‘Mission Shakti’, in 2019. Air Vice Marshal Anil Golani, the Additional Director General of the Centre for Airpower Studies (CAPS), noted that countries often used ASAT tests as a show of force and cited Russia’s recent ASAT test in November 2021 as a political move to demonstrate deterrence capability to the US and NATO forces.

The increasing number of ASAT tests by nations has raised concerns about the potential impact on the carefully crafted international legal framework for safeguarding space.

The recent seminar organised by ISpA brought together industry experts, military officials, and other stakeholders to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented.

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