Growing Private Role in the Space Sector
Growing Private Role in the Space Sector
1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS
The Government of India recently announced the creation of a new organisation, IN-SPACe as part of its reform to increase private participation in the space sector.
This editorial discusses the objectives of the creation of In-SPACe and the future of space exploration.
2. SETTING UP OF A NEW ORGANIZATION
- Recently the government gave the nod the creation of a new organisation to increase the participation of the private sector in India's space initiatives.
- Setting up of IN-SPACe is an important part of reforms to open up the space sector and make space-based applications and services more widely accessible to everyone.
2.2 About Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe)
- The new organization is expected to be operational within six months
- It will assess the needs and demands of private players.
- It will all cater to the needs of educational and research institutions
- It will also explore ways to accommodate these requirements in consultation with ISRO.
2.3 Following resources will be made accessible to the concerned entities to enable them to carry out their space-related activities:
- Ground and space-based ISRO infrastructure
- Scientific and technical resources of ISRO,
- Data present with ISRO.
3. NEED OF PRIVATE PARTICIPANTS IN INDIAN SPACE SECTOR
3.1 Present status of Indian Private Industry in Space sector
- Private industry is already involved in India’s space sector.
- A major share of manufacturing and fabrication of rockets and satellites today is done by the private sector.
- The participation of research institutions is also increasing in India's space sector.
- But the participation of Indian industry is close to only 3% in a rapidly growing global space economy which was already worth $360 billion.
- Only two per cent of this market was for rocket and satellite launch services, which require fairly large infrastructure and heavy investment.
- The remaining 95 per cent related to satellite-based services, and ground-based systems.
- Indian industry remains largely uncompetitive because until now its role has been mainly that of suppliers of components and sub-systems.
- Indian industries lack the resources and technology required to undertake independent space projects (like that of US companies such as SpaceX) or provide space-based services.
3.2 Growing demand of space based services in India
- There is also an increasing demand for space-based applications and services in India which ISRO is unable to cater on its own.
- Today, the need of satellite data, imageries and space technology is required in various sectors as weather, agriculture, transport, urban development etc.
- It will act as an interface between ISRO and private parties, and assess how best to utilise India’s space resources and increase space-based activities.
4. BENEFITS ARISIONG OUT OF THE INITIATIVE
4.1 Benefits to Private players
- Several Indian companies want to grab this growing opportunity of space-based applications and services in India.
- A few companies are also in the process of developing their own launch vehicle and ISRO is more than willing to help them out.
- Such launch vehicles will carry satellites and other payloads into space like ISRO’s PSLV.
- Presently all launches from India takes place through ISRO's rockets, which are different versions of PSLV and GSLV.
- ISRO is ready to provide all its facilities to private players whose projects had been approved by IN-SPACe.
- Private companies will also be allowed to even build their own Launchpad within the Sriharikota launch station necessary land for the purpose will be provided by ISRO.
- IN-SPACe will work as both, facilitator and regulator.
4.2 Benefits to ISRO
- Involving private players in the Indian space sector has its strategic and commercial advantages.
- There is need for greater dissemination of space technologies, better utilisation of space resources, and increased requirement of space-based services.
- Presently ISRO is unable to satisfy this need all by itself.
- Participation by private industry will also free up ISRO to concentrate on science, research and development, interplanetary exploration and strategic launches.
- Presently a major share of ISRO’s resources is consumed by routine activities that delay the much more important strategic objectives.
- An increasing number of private players are launching weather and communication satellites for commercial benefits all over the world and hence, there is no reason why ISRO alone should be launching these satellites.
- ISRO, like NASA, is essentially a scientific organisation whose main objective is exploration of space and carrying out scientific missions.
- There are a number of ambitious space missions lined up in the coming years, including a mission to observe the Sun, a mission to the Moon, a human spaceflight, and then, possibly, a human landing on the Moon.
5. NEW SPACE ORGANIZATIONS IN INDIA
5.1 New Space India Limited (NSIL)
- IN-SPACe is the second space organisation created by the government in recent years.
- The Indian government had announced the setting up of a New Space India Limited (NSIL) in the 2019 budget.
- NSIL will be a public sector company intended to serve as 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 marketing role was already being performed by Antrix Corporation, another PSU working under the Department of Space, which still exists.
- The objectives of these two organisations with overlapping function is still not clear.
- The government recently said to redefine the role of NSIL from the current supply-driven strategy to a demand-driven approach.
- It means that 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 part of the reforms that have been initiated in the space sector.
- Private players will not take away the share of revenues that ISRO gets through commercial launches.
- In the coming years, Space-based economy is expected to explode worldwide including India, and both ISRO and private players will gain by joining hands together.
- ISRO can generate additional revenue by extending its facilities and data to the private players.