Friday, December 1, 2023

From Policy To Moon Mission: India’s Giant Space Leap

By Aritra Banerjee

Through the lens of India’s burgeoning space program, IADB explores the nation’s rising global influence. From pivotal partnerships to ambitious lunar missions, India’s journey through the cosmos is just beginning.

Over the past decade, India has risen from being a regional player to a key participant on the international stage in the arena of space exploration. Breaking free from the bounds of its subcontinent, India is now seen as a vibrant player in the cosmos, having made significant leaps through its successful launch of Chandrayaan-3 and its recent acceptance into the prestigious United States-led Artemis Accords. Furthermore, India’s domestic policies, such as the Indian Space Policy 2023, are setting a solid foundation for the private sector and space start-ups to contribute to the rapidly expanding global space economy.

Venturing Into Uncharted Territories: India & The Artemis Accords

India marks it’s entry into the Artemis Accords; Graphical Representation

India’s decision to join the Artemis Accords marks a pivotal moment in its space diplomacy with the US. This partnership not only signals an increased commitment to manned moon missions but also shows India’s escalating involvement in the Artemis Program.

Despite critics voicing concerns about the potential for this move to affect India’s existing space partnerships, the Indian government has been clear about its stance. They argue that joining the Artemis Accords is in sync with the country’s strategic interests and doesn’t signify a departure from existing relationships, but rather it indicates a strategic diversification of its space partnerships, as explained by analysts.

Observers note that the global community has welcomed India’s involvement in the Artemis Accords, further cementing the country’s growing influence in the space sector. Even while nurturing its ambitious goal of establishing its own space station, India views the Artemis Accords as an opportunity to bolster international alliances and significantly contribute to the collective human endeavour of becoming a multi-planetary species.

Cultivating Domestic Capabilities: The Indian Space Policy 2023

While global alliances are undoubtedly important, India has also recognised the need to nurture and cultivate domestic capabilities. The newly approved Indian Space Policy 2023 aims to drive this initiative, offering a framework for the private sector to play an active role in the space sector.

Currently, India’s share in the global space economy is just 2%. However, with the new policy in place, the Indian government aspires to increase this to a minimum of 10% over the next decade. The policy offers a clear path for non-governmental entities, enabling them to partake in all facets of space activities – from manufacturing and launching satellites to providing commercial services. The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Center (IN-SPACe) will be the pivotal conduit between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and private firms.

The policy’s ambitious goals have been met with enthusiasm from the private sector, with leading space start-ups viewing this as an opportunity to compete globally. However, industry watchers have highlighted the need for a balanced approach, emphasising sustainable growth and judicious funding strategies.

Aiming For The Moon: Chandrayaan-3

Chandrayan-3 is expected to soft-land on the moon by late August; File Photo

Chandrayaan-3, India’s most recent lunar mission, showcases the country’s steadfast resolve in space exploration. The spacecraft, launched from Sriharikota, is set for a landing attempt in the moon’s south polar region by late August. A successful landing would earn India a place among the elite nations – the US, China, and Russia – that have previously achieved soft-landing a spacecraft on the moon.

This mission is also indicative of India’s potential for playing significant roles in international space collaborations, especially with its recent agreement with the US for a joint mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2024. Additionally, shifts in the focus of the US space policy, such as recent funding cuts to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Mars Sample Return mission, could offer a unique opportunity for India and other space agencies to lead global scientific exploration initiatives.

Towards Interplanetary Missions

Artist’s rendition of interplanetary space missions; Image Courtesy/Michael Stillwell

India’s ambitious strides in space exploration have opened up new horizons for potential interplanetary missions. These missions could offer significant benefits to the nation’s economy, technological advancement, and scientific research, particularly in fields such as communication systems, artificial intelligence (AI), propulsion systems, and communication robots. Analysts opine that encouraging private sector involvement in these missions could further unlock vast potential in sectors like information technology (IT), life sciences, and electronics, leading to new scientific discoveries and technological advancements.

Navigating The Space Future

India’s trajectory in the global space sector is expected to be promising. The aforementioned successful launch of Chandrayaan-3 and the country’s inclusion in the Artemis Accords positions India as a formidable player in the international space arena. Additionally, the Indian Space Policy 2023, as highlighted earlier, sets the stage for a transformational era of private-sector participation in the country’s space industry.

Yet, these promising developments must be complemented with careful planning and sustainable growth strategies to ensure the commercial aspects of space exploration do not overshadow the broader goals of scientific understanding and exploration. Striking a balance between economic interests and scientific pursuits is crucial as India navigates this new era of space exploration. Industry bodies and start-up founders largely believe that with the right blend of strategic alliances, private sector participation, and a commitment to scientific discovery, India appears well-positioned to seize the opportunities that lie ahead in the vast expanse of the cosmos.

Aritra Banerjee is a Senior Correspondent at Indian Aerospace & Defence

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