Wednesday, October 4, 2023

India’s Ambitious Space Policy 2023 Set To Spur Private Sector Involvement In The Country’s Cosmic Ventures

By Staff Correspondent

In a historic move on 6 April 2023, the Indian government gave its nod to the much-awaited Indian Space Policy 2023, signalling a new era for the country’s space sector. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the cabinet committee has approved a policy that aims to institutionalise and promote private sector engagement in the space domain, with the ambitious goal of increasing India’s share in the global space economy from the current 2% to at least 10% in the near future.

The Indian Space Policy 2023 delineates the roles and responsibilities of three key entities: the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), New Space India Limited (NSIL), a space sector public sector undertaking (PSU), and the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Center (IN-SPACe).

This policy recognises the pivotal role of space technology in various sectors, including communication, defence, disaster management, navigation, agriculture, weather forecasting, and monitoring. It strongly emphasises developing indigenous technologies to enhance capacity building in the space sector and promote self-reliance in space technology.

A notable highlight of the policy is the framework it establishes for the private sector to utilise ISRO facilities for a nominal charge and encourages them to invest in creating new infrastructure for the sector. While ISRO will not engage in operational and production work for the space sector, it will focus on developing new technologies, systems, and research and development.

Dr S Somanath, Chairman of ISRO, stated, “A major objective is to increase our share in the global space economy from around 2% at present to at least 10% in the coming years, to do which government investment alone will not be enough, and there needs to be investment and participation from the private sector in a larger way.”

The Indian Space Policy 2023 underscores three crucial elements:

Participation of non-government entities without restrictions, enabling them to engage in all domains of space activities, including building rockets, and satellites, launching them, owning satellites, operating them, and delivering commercial services.

Provision for utilising existing technologies from ISRO by new companies, recognising the capital-intensive nature of the space sector and the need for leveraging existing capabilities.

Creation of a single-window system called IN-SPACe, which will serve as the interface between ISRO and non-governmental entities, providing hand-holding, promotion, and authorisation services.

“This is a historic moment as the cabinet has approved the Indian Space Policy 2023. It 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,” said Lt Gen A K Bhatt (r), Director General of the Indian Space Association (ISpA).

The eagerly anticipated release of the policy in the public domain has stakeholders eagerly awaiting the details. They express gratitude to Prime Minister Modi for his visionary leadership and focus on long-overdue reforms in the Indian space sector.

With the approval of the Indian Space Policy 2023, India’s space sector is poised for a paradigm shift, with increased private sector participation expected to stimulate innovation, investment, and growth, propelling the nation towards greater heights in the global space economy.

Awais Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer of Pixxel, told IADB, “The policy has been long awaited. Startups such as ourselves at Pixxel have been continuing to work without a policy with one-off approvals from IN-SPACe with the promise that a policy and then, hopefully, a space bill and act would follow. Glad to finally see this come through. India has tremendous potential to leverage ISRO’s expertise and experience for its private ecosystem. We’ll see many more space companies being created that can compete globally.”

Indian-origin space and defence expert, Omkar Nikam shared his take on the developments: “I am glad to see the approval of India Space Policy (2023). However, it is also time for Indian government and commercial enterprises to spot the gaps in other industries, and wherever possible, bridge it using space applications to bring overall efficiency in that particular industrial segment.”

He went on to say, “Considering the track record of commercial private NewSpace companies globally, India should make sure to that the funding instruments and channels are utilised in a sustainable manner. There have been many instances in the space industry, where a company has acquired billions of dollars of funding, without even a go-to-market strategy.”

“Such situations will downplay the progressive commercial footprint of India’s space sector. Therefore, with the approval of ISP 2023, it is the responsibility of both private commercial entities as well as government agencies to assess the Space company’s business plan carefully and ensure the sustainable growth of commercial space applications in India,” Nikam said before signing off.

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