Overview of India’s Space Sector
After much deliberation, consulting, feedbacks and review the Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO) launched “Indian Space Policy 2023” which provides the much-needed impetus to Indian space sector, stimulating greater investments and participation of the private sector within the space economy.
India is one of the few space-faring countries on the globe, yet it occupies a menial share within the global space industry. From its early days of development Indian space ecosystem lacked the support and push from the private sector. The only role played by the private space industry has been that of suppliers or vendors to the government’s space programme.
Therefore, it was necessary to give Non-Governmental Entities (NGEs) the opportunity to participate more actively in India’s space programme and to play crucial role in increasing India’s market share in the global space economy.
In order to overcome this fending gap, the Government of India unleashed reforms in space domain in 2020 which opened new doors of opportunity for the non-government entities (NGE’s) to play their part in order to create a thriving ecosystem. The Government of India introduced extensive policy reforms in the Indian space programme, taking into account a number of quick-moving geopolitical, economic, and technological events worldwide. These reforms served as a catalyst and laid the foundation for the current Indian space policy.
Major Policy Provisions of ISP 2023
The vison of the policy is to “enable, encourage and develop a flourishing commercial presence in space” and implement a comprehensive strategy that encourages and promotes greater involvement of the private sector in every step of the space economy’s value chain, including the development of both space assets and ground-based ones.
The policy aims to create four distinct but interrelated agencies that oversee the growth, development and fair functions of the NGE’s within the space sector. These agencies are namely as follows; Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Indian National Space Promotion & Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) and Department of Space (DOS).
The mission of IN-SPACe, an independent government agency, is to support, oversee, direct, and approve space operations across the nation. To fulfil its purpose it will issue guidelines and procedures periodically to create a stable and uniform framework which will ensure regular playing field for all NGE’s. It shall further collaborate with industries, locally as well as globally, to promote space endeavours and establish India as a top provider of products and services for the space industry worldwide.
The primary goals of ISRO as the National space agency, will be to advance human knowledge of space and to research and develop new space technology and it’s uses. It includes development of novel systems and conduct applied research in order to keep India’s competitive edge in the domains of human spaceflight, space infrastructure, space transportation, and space applications. Consequently, it shall take action to share technologies, products, processes and best practices with NGEs and/or Government companies. To summarise, ISRO aims to encourage cross-national and international alliances and collaborations with business and academia to advance space science, technology, and applications research.
NSIL, as the Public Sector Undertaking under DOS be in charge of bringing publicly funded space technologies and systems to market. NSIL will take on the role of the industry’s interface, engage in business talks, and offer assistance to enable a quick and effective transfer of innovations.
DOS shall serve as the focal point for implementing the Indian Space Policy through specific policy directives, within the framework of which the various stakeholders are required to carry out their respective tasks. Additionally, it will monitor the assignment of duties described in this policy and make sure that each stakeholder has the authority necessary to carry out their specific duties without interfering with those of others.
Why prioritising the participation of private sector is crucial?
Developing the private sector will give the opportunity to the Indian space programme to maintain cost competitiveness in the global space market and subsequently generate an array of employment opportunities in the space industry and other connected industries.
India is still in the early stages of the commercial space race, despite the fact that private businesses like Agnikul Cosmos, Skyroot Aerospace, and Dhruva have launched their own missions private sector participation still remains in an infant phase.
Although the government has taken several attempts to increase private sector involvement in space, the numerous approvals needed for action still serve as a significant impediment.
ISP will guide the way forward by bringing much-needed clarity to space reforms and enhancing private industry participation to spur the nation’s space economy.
The ambiguity surrounding the policy
Although ISP aims to encourage a greater role of the private sector, it fails to provide clear and distinct legislative rules and policies to back up the same. The vague and cryptic timelines for the policy implementation offer several loopholes to both NGE’s and government entities to implement their action plans. Thus, making it challenging to evaluate the policy’s implementation and progress.
Additionally, all responsibilities for development of guidelines have been transferred to IN-SPACe as an autonomous regulatory authority in absence of any legislative framework. As a result, there is lack of legislation passed by the Parliament, the 2023 Policy is not providing the private sector with the necessary solid legal regulatory foundation to ensure a successful implementation.
Clear and comprehensive rules and regulations are required by the policy framework in a number of areas, including foreign direct investment (FDI), licencing, government procurement to encourage new space start-ups, and an employable system for dispute resolution. Lack of specific law may make it more difficult to uphold rules and establish a solid regulatory framework for the space industry.
Conflicting International Interests
In addition to the legislative hurdles of ISP 2023, the policy vision statement and objectives pose a contradictory threat to international UN treaties. According to Article 1 of The Outer Space Treaty (1967) the space activities of any nation must be “for the benefit and interest of all countries”; however, the privatisation and commercialisation of the space ecosystem poses a threat of cutting in on the international obligations and commitments.
Moreover, concerns have been raised that India might be following the footsteps of US policies which might lead to a precarious path. By granting private organisations property rights and allowing non-governmental organisations to “engage in the commercial recovery of an asteroid resource or a space resource,” the US Space Launch Competitiveness Act 2015 goes against the collectivist philosophy of international space treaties. This conflict between national private interests and international public interests may be the cause of adverse outcomes.
The Road ahead
India currently constitutes 2% of the total global market share within the space sector. Following its growth and development trajectory Indian space sectors holds the potential to capture a share of 9% by 2030. The Indian space industry could exceed $60 billion by 2030 with the right conditions and enabling environment directly creating more than two lakh jobs and encouraging greater research within the space sector.
Hence, Indian Space Policy-2023 would provide the path for much-needed clarity in space reforms and strengthen private sector participation to help the nation take advantage of the space economic opportunity.
Indian Space Policy 2023. ISRO. https://www.isro.gov.in/media_isro/pdf/IndianSpacePolicy2023.pdf
Government unveils Indian Space Policy 2023, Manorama Yearbook. April 21. https://www.manoramayearbook.in/india/special-articles/2023/04/22/indian-space-policy-2023.html
Legal overview of space law in India. December 6. https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=4d90359c-b79e-40c3-8d2c-8c9fdf308484
Outlining inconsistencies in the Indian Space Policy 2023. May 1. https://caslnujs.in/2023/05/01/outlining-inconsistencies-in-the-indian-space-policy-2023/
Savleen Kaur is a Research Intern at IMPRI.
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