On June 25, 2020, the government gave its green signal to private industries in India space program. Until now, the private firms were only allowed in manufacturing and supply of parts and components for fabrication of rockets and satellites
Now ISRO can focus more on research and development activities, new technologies, exploration missions, and human spaceflight program,
Right now, tons of ISRO’s resources are being consumed by normal routine activities, which was causing a delay in its essential objectives.
Numerous private companies worldwide are engaged with space activities like launching weather, communication satellites, and positioning satellites. If private industries and startups take over these activities, ISRO can concentrate on space exploration by completing scientific missions.
Advantages and challenges
According to ISRO chief startups and various medium firms have shown their interest in satellite making and providing various space services.
There were a few companies that were developing their launch vehicles and the rockets like ISRO’s PSLV that carry the satellites and other payloads into space, and ISRO would like to help them do that.
Right now, all launches from India happen on ISRO rockets, in different versions PSLV and GSLV. Sivan said ISRO is ready to provide all its facilities to private players whose projects get approved by IN-SPACe.
If they want, private companies could even build their launchpad within the Sriharikota launch station, and ISRO would provide the necessary land for that, he said.
Since space-related activities require a massive investment and there is a constant risk of negligible or negative return, ISRO is helping them by sharing their in-house facilities with them.
But some sectors offer fair investment returns such as application building and the ground segment of satellites.
The Indian space industry has barely three percent share within the global space economy, which is worth a minimum of $344.5 billion. Only two percent of this market was for rocket and satellite launch services, which require relatively large infrastructure and massive investment—the remaining percentage associated with satellite-based services, and ground-based systems.
For India to project itself as a global market for space-related activities, big players in the market have to come to the field, and the government has to pump the money for small firms and startups.
IN-SPACe will be backed by the ISRO experts team and headed by a technology expert as they have to deal with various technology related aspects in the space sector.
IN-SPACe will have five directorates to take care of all the aspects and various safety and monitoring guidelines these include technical, safety&security, legal, monitoring, and promotion for assessing the private sector requirements and making coordinating efforts
The IN-SPACe structure includes board and representatives from industry, academia, and the government.
Indian private space industries were unable to compete until now because its role has been confined to supplies and fabrication of rockets and satellites.
They did not have the resources or the technology to undertake independent space projects that the US companies like SpaceX are doing or provide space-based services.
HOW ISRO benefits
ISRO benefits in two ways. One is economical, and the other strategic. There’s a need for more excellent distribution of space technologies, better utilization of space resources, and increased provision of space-based services. And ISRO lags far behind in satisfying these
There is no purpose why ISRO alone should be launching weather or communication satellites. All over the world, an increasing number of private players are interested in space activities for commercial benefits.
ISRO is a scientific organization whose main objective should be the exploration of space and completing scientific missions. In the coming years, several ambitious space missions are lined up, such as the mission to observe the Sun(Aditya-L1), a human spaceflight (gaganyaan), a mission to the Moon, and human landing on the Moon(Chandrayaan-3)
And it’s not that the private sector will take away the revenues that ISRO gets through commercial launches. Because the space-based economy is expected to “explode” within the next few years, and there would be quite enough for all. Additionally, ISRO can earn some money by making its facilities and data available to private players.
Other than IN-SPACe
IN-SPACe is the second space organization created by the govt within the last two years. In the 2019 Budget, the govt announced the launch of Space India Limited (NSIL), a public sector company that will function as a marketing arm of ISRO. Its primary purpose was to market the technologies developed by ISRO and bring in more clients that require space-based services.
That role, incidentally, was already being performed by Antrix Corporation, (PSU)working under the Department of Space, and which still exists. It’s still not very clear why there was a necessity for a new organization with coinciding functions.
The government said it had been redefining the role of NSIL so that it might have a demand-driven approach instead of the present supply-driven strategy.
Essentially, what that means is that rather than just marketing what ISRO has got to offer, NSIL would hear the requirements of the clients and ask ISRO to fulfil those. This alteration in NSIL’s role, Sivan said, was also a part of the reforms initiated within the space sector.
ISRO chief Dr Sivan said that the IN-SPACe board might take 3-6 months to become operational, but private sector companies could apply even now for various functions and get their requests processed in fast-track mode. He also noted that the current policies would be modified to make this system function effectively to provide fair and equitable space for personal enterprises.
India has taken a remarkable decision by introducing private sectors in space missions and services which will benefit humankind in long run, but for this to run successfully and complete its objectives the government must pump in some money so that small firms and startups show greater interests in space exploration because it involves a high amount of risks
at the same time, India must have a Space Act Bill in place to better regulate the space industry