- This article highlights the provisions of the recently released Indian Space Policy 2023 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the gaps in it.
Evolution and potential of India’s space industry
- Until the early 1990s:
- First space age where India’s space industry and space economy were defined by ISRO.
- Private sector involvement was limited to building to ISRO designs and specifications.
- From the late 1990’s:
- The Second Space Age began with the licensing of private TV channels, the explosive growth of the Internet, mobile telephony, and the emergence of the smartphone.
- Current scenario
- India’s space economy is over $9.6 billion with ISRO’s budget of $1.6 billion.
- Broadband, OTT and 5G promise a double-digit annual growth in satellite-based services.
- The Indian space industry could grow to $60 billion by 2030 with an enabling environment.
Various policies related to space sector
- The first satellite communication policy introduced in 1997, A remote sensing data policy introduced in 2001, which was replaced by a National Geospatial Policy in 2016, A draft Space Activities Bill brought out in 2017 have not yielded the much needed results.
- For instance,
- Indian users spend nearly a billion dollars annually to procure earth observation data and imagery from foreign sources.
- More than half the transponders beaming TV signals into Indian homes are hosted on foreign satellites, resulting in an annual outflow of over half a billion dollars
How different is Indian Space Policy 2023 from the previous efforts?
- It recognises the private sector as a critical stakeholder in the entire value chain of the space economy.
- It clearly emphasizes its focus on civilian and peaceful exploration of outer space, stimulation of public awareness and scientific quest.
Private sector participation
- The policy seeks to institutionalize the private sector participation in the space sector, with ISRO focusing on research and development of advanced space technologies.
- The private sector is 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
- They can design and operate launch vehicles for space transportation and establish their own infrastructure.
- They can now make filings with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and engage in commercial recovery of asteroid resources.
Defined Roles and responsibilities: The policy lays out a strategy and then spells out the roles of the
- Department of Space, ISRO
- ISRO shall focus on R&D in advanced technology and share technologies, products, processes and best practices with NGEs (non-government entities) and/or Government companies
- The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) set up in 2020
- It acts as the single window agency for authorizing space activities by government entities and NGEs.
- 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.
- NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), a public sector unit set up in 2019 under the Department of Space as the commercial arm of ISRO to replace the now defunct Antrix.
- 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.
Gaps in the Policy
- Lack of time frame: There is no timeline for ISRO’s transitioning out of its current practices (manufacturing of operational space systems) or a schedule for IN-SPACe to create the regulatory framework.
- Lack of statutory authority for IN-SPACe: The position of IN-SPACe is ambiguous as it functions under the purview of the Department of Space.
- The policy also lacks clear rules and regulations pertaining to many.
- The policy framework envisaged will need clear rules and regulations pertaining to FDI and licensing, government procurement to sustain the new space start-ups, liability in case of violations and an appellate framework for dispute settlement.
- A statutory body for IN-SPACe has to be created.