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IN-SPACe - Private Space Industry in India

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June 26, 2020

Why in news?

The Government of India has announced the creation of a new ‘Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre’ (IN-SPACe).

What is IN-SPACe for?

  • IN-SPACe will be an autonomous nodal agency under the Department of Space.
  • It is expected to be functional within 6 months (from June 2020).
  • IN-SPACe is supposed to be a facilitator and a regulator.
  • It will act as an interface between ISRO and private parties.
  • It will provide the necessary support for the private space industry to conduct its activities.
  • IN-SPACe will assess the needs and demands of private players including educational and research institutions.
  • It will explore ways to accommodate these requirements in consultation with ISRO.
  • It will also assess how best to utilise India’s space resources and increase space-based activities.
  • Existing ISRO infrastructure, scientific and technical resources and even data are planned to be made accessible to interested parties.
  • [The infrastructure includes both ground- and space-based.]
  • The decision comes as a part of an important set of reforms to open up the space sector.
  • The objective is to make space-based applications and services more widely accessible to everyone.

How is India's private sector participation in space industry?

  • Currently, there does exist private industry involvement in India’s space sector.
  • In fact, a large part of manufacturing and fabrication of rockets and satellites now happens in the private sector.
  • There is an increasing participation of research institutions as well.
  • However, Indian industry had a barely 3% share in a rapidly growing global space economy.
  • Currently, the value of the global space industry is estimated to be $360 billion.
  • Only 2% of this market goes for rocket and satellite launch services, which require fairly large infrastructure and heavy investment.
  • A huge 95% are related to satellite-based services, and ground-based systems.
  • Indian industry, however, is unable to compete.

Why is Indian space industry lagging behind?

  • Till now, Indian space industry's role has been mainly that of suppliers of components and sub-systems.
  • Indian industries do not have the resources or the technology to undertake independent space projects or provide space-based services.
  • Additionally, the demand for space-based applications and services is growing even within India.
  • The need for satellite data, imageries and space technology now cuts across sectors.
  • It ranges from weather to agriculture to transport to urban development, and more.
  • But, ISRO is unable to cater to this.
  • ISRO would have to be expanded 10 times the current level to meet all the demand that is arising.

What opportunity will IN-SPACe offer?

  • Currently, all launches from India happen on ISRO rockets, the different versions of PSLV and GSLV.
  • Several Indian companies were waiting to make use of the opportunities as IN-SPACe provides.
  • A few companies were also in the process of developing their own launch vehicles.
  • ISRO is now wiling to extend its support to them.
  • ISRO would provide all its facilities to private players whose projects had been approved by IN-SPACe.
  • Private companies, if they wanted, could even build their own launchpad within the Sriharikota launch station.
  • ISRO would provide the necessary land for that.

What does ISRO gain by this?

  • Commercial - There is a need for greater dissemination of space technologies, and better utilisation of space resources.
  • Moreover, there is an increased requirement of space-based services.
  • ISRO seems unable to satisfy this need on its own and thus private participation would fill the gap.
  • Notably, the private players will not take away the revenues that ISRO gets through commercial launches.
  • The space-based economy is expected to “explode” in the next few years, even in India.
  • So, there would be more than enough for all.
  • Also, ISRO can earn some money by making its facilities and data available to private players.
  • Strategic - Right now, too much of ISRO’s resources is consumed by routine activities.
  • This delays its more strategic objectives.
  • There is no reason why ISRO alone should be launching weather or communication satellites.
  • The world over, an increasing number of private players are taking over this activity for commercial benefits.
  • ISRO, like NASA, is essentially a scientific organisation whose main objective is exploration of space and carrying out scientific missions.
  • So, with private participation, ISRO can concentrate more on science, R&D, interplanetary exploration and strategic launches.

What are the other initiatives?

  • IN-SPACe is the second space organisation created by the government in the last two years.
  • In the 2019 Budget, the government had announced the setting up of a New Space India Limited (NSIL).
  • The NSIL is a public sector company that would serve as a marketing arm of ISRO.
  • Its main purpose is to market the technologies developed by ISRO and bring it more clients that need space-based services.
  • This role was already being performed by Antrix Corporation, another PSU working under the Department of Space, and which still exists.
  • It was unclear why there was a need for another organisation with overlapping function.
  • However, the government said that it was redefining the role of NSIL.
  • By doing so, NSIL would have a demand-driven approach rather than the current supply-driven strategy.
  • So instead of just marketing what ISRO has to offer, NSIL would listen to the needs of the clients and ask ISRO to fulfil those.
  • This change in NSIL’s role is also part of the reforms that have been initiated in the space sector.

 

Source: Indian Express

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