Indian Space Sector

Context:  According to the recently released Arthur D Little (ADL) report, India’s space economy could potentially touch $100 billion by 2040. More about the News:
  • Global space market is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2040.
  • Government of India Target: With its current trajectory, India’s space economy could account for 9% of the global space industry by 2030 and reach $40 billion by 2040. 
  • However, according to Report, India has the potential to reach $100 billion space economy by 2040.
  • Four main factors to create rapid growth in the Indian Space industry: 
    • India’s rising space budget to fund ISRO’s ambitious plans like Chandrayaan-03, Gaganyaan etc. In Budget 2023-24, department of space was allocated Rs 12,543 crore.
    • India’s advantage as the preferred destination for launch services.
    • Government’s push to the start-up ecosystem with the potential for more private players. adoption of commercial satellite internet operations, as and when they begin.
    • Encouraging private participation has yielded remarkable results, with new-age space start-ups in India securing an impressive USD 112 million in funding in 2022 alone.
  • Key Challenges Pointed in Report:  Lack of local manufacturing capabilities for certain components, funding inadequacies, the need for a clear and comprehensive regulatory framework, and increasing competition from foreign players.
Examples of private sector involvement in space programs are:
  • SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and Arianespace: Offer launch services and space tourism.
  • Star-link, One-Web, Amazon Kuiper and Telesat: Developing mega-constellations of satellites to provide global broadband internet access.
  • Planet Labs, Digital-Globe, Black-sky and Iceye: Provide Earth observation and remote sensing data and services.
  • Astrobotic, Moon Express, iSpace and Blue Moon: Developing lunar landers and rovers for exploration and resource utilization.
About Indian Space Sector:
  • Currently, India’s space industry is valued at $8 billion with a 2% share in the global space economy. 
  • The government spending on space is around $2 billion and the country has launched 381 foreign satellites since 1999 for 34 countries clocking $279 million in revenues.
  • Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is the world’s sixth largest national space agency.
Reason for Growth of Indian Space Industry:
  • Cost-effectiveness: ISRO is known for its low-cost and reliable launch vehicles.
    • ISRO charged only $15 million for launching 104 satellites in one go in 2017, while SpaceX charges around $60 million for a single satellite launch.
  • Capability: ISRO has proven its capability and expertise in launching various types of satellites, ranging from small and nano satellites to heavy and complex satellites.
    • ISRO has demonstrated its ability to launch satellites into different orbits, such as polar, sun-synchronous, geostationary, etc.
  • Credibility: ISRO has gained an impeccable reputation globally for its high success rate and quality of service.
    • ISRO has launched more than 300 satellites for various foreign states between 1999-2022, with a success rate of over 90%.
  • Collaboration: ISRO has been supporting the development of space capabilities and applications in other countries, especially developing countries, by providing training, consultancy, technical assistance, etc.
  • ISRO has been encouraging the participation of private players and startups in the Indian space sector by providing guidance, support, authorization and access to its facilities.
Indian Space Policy 2023:
  • Aim: To encourage and institutionalize private sector participation in India’s space sector, with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) primarily focusing on research and development of advanced space technologies.
  • Entry of the private sector: Private companies will be allowed to build satellites, rockets, and launch vehicles, and engage in data collection and dissemination.
    • It encourages private companies to invest in creating new infrastructure for the space sector and use ISRO facilities for a small charge, to support their space-related activities.
  • Clarity in duties and responsibilities of institutions in India’s space sector: 
Institutions Responsibility
Department of Space
  • It will be in charge of carrying out the Indian Space Policy.
  • It will also ensure that the policy’s various stakeholders are empowered to carry out their tasks “without overlapping into the domains of others.”
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)
  • ISRO as India’s top space agency focuses on developing new technologies, systems and research & development.
New Space India Limited (NSIL)
  • It will work in a demand-driven way to meet the industry’s needs and handle the operational aspects of ISRO’s missions. It will be in charge of all strategic space-related initiatives.
  • NSIL is a space sector Public Sector Undertaking (PSU).
Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACE)
  • In-Space is an autonomous and single window nodal agency in the Department of Space for the promotion, encouragement, and regulation of space activities of both government and private entities.
  • It acts as a link between ISRO and private sector entities, and facilitates the usage of ISRO facilities by private entities.
  Significance of Private Sector Participation in Indian Space Sector:
  • Innovation: They bring more innovation and creativity to the space sector, by developing new technologies, products, and services that can cater to the diverse and emerging needs of the customers.
  • Competition: They create a healthy and competitive environment in the space sector, by offering more choices and options to the customers at lower costs and better quality.
  • Collaboration: They can foster more collaboration and partnership with various stakeholders in the space sector, such as government agencies, academic institutions, research organizations, international entities, etc.
  • Commercialization: They can boost the commercialization and monetization of the space assets and services in India, by creating new markets and opportunities for revenue generation and profit making.
  • Socio-Economic Development: They can contribute to the social and economic development of the country by providing space-based solutions and services to various sectors, such as education, health care, agriculture, etc.
Private Participation in Indian Space Program:
  • Skyroot Aerospace: A Hyderabad-based startup that launched India’s first privately built rocket, Vikram S (Mission Prarambh), on December 11, 2021.
  • Agnikul Cosmos: A Chennai-based startup is developing a small satellite launch vehicle called Agnibaan, which can carry up to 100 kg payload to low earth orbit.
  • Pixxel: A Bengaluru-based startup is building a constellation of high-resolution earth observation satellites that can provide real-time insights for various applications, such as agriculture, forestry, urban planning, disaster management, etc.
  • Bellatrix Aerospace: A Bengaluru-based startup that is developing innovative propulsion systems for satellites and launch vehicles, such as electric thrusters, green propellants, orbital transfer vehicles, etc.
Key Challenges Faced by Private Sector in Indian Space Sector:
  • Lack of Policy Direction: The government has not yet finalized a legislation that can provide a clear and consistent framework for the private players to operate in the space domain.
  • Resource constraints: The private sector faces various resource constraints in the space sector, such as funding, infrastructure, human capital, technology, etc.
  • Competitive pressures: The private sector faces intense competitive pressures in the space sector, both from domestic and international players.
  • Security risks: The private sector involvement in the space sector may pose some security risks for India’s national interests and assets in outer space like protection of sensitive technology. 
  • Policy conflicts: The private sector participation in the space sector may create some policy conflicts or dilemmas for India’s strategic objectives.
Way Forward:
  • Regulatory Clarity: The government should finalize and enact a comprehensive and consistent space policy and legislation that can provide a clear and conducive framework for the private players to operate in the space domain.
  • Incentive: The government should encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in the space sector, by providing incentives, awards, recognition, or challenges to the private players who develop new or improved solutions or services.
    • Use schemes such as production-linked incentives (PLI) to make India a manufacturing hub for satellites.
  • Collaboration: The government should foster collaboration and cooperation among the public and private players, as well as with other countries or international organizations, to leverage their respective strengths and capabilities.
  • Security measures: The government should ensure the security and safety of India’s national interests and assets in outer space, by implementing appropriate safeguards and mechanisms to prevent or mitigate any threats or risks posed by the private sector involvement in the space sector.
  • Establish dedicated research and development centres for emerging themes in space, and accelerate skill development activities to create a ready workforce.
  • ADL report also recommends five areas for India to achieve underlying opportunity: 
    • Encouraging mass adoption of satellite internet services to compete with terrestrial communication.
    • Leveraging existing strength in satellite and launch vehicles manufacturing and launch services to become a world leader with end-to-end competence in components manufacturing.
    • Building capabilities in areas with high commercial potential such as space mining, in-space manufacturing, and in-orbit servicing.
    • Exploring emerging activities such as space tourism and space entertainment to provide cost-effective services in the future.
    • Innovating in ‘green space’ including sustainable fuel, reusable spacecraft, and use of eco-friendly technologies.
  • The future of the Indian space sector looks promising, with several major initiatives and projects underway.
  • With continued support from the government and private sector participation, India is set to leave an indelible mark in the domain of space exploration and technology.
News Source: Livemint
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