Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Indian Space Association (ISpA), an attempt to open the space sector to aspiring start-ups, private sector companies and entrepreneurs. It is often said that Space is the next frontier in humanity’s quest for knowledge and survival. India has surprised many countries with a dedicated space program that has spread its eyes from Mars to Moon besides providing extensive services to the Indian people and others.
India’s quest for space is led by the government owned ISRO or Indian Space Research Organization. From its humble beginnings in 1969 with a team of nothing more than enthusiast scientists, ISRO is competing among the best and brightest in the world today. Some of its stunning achievements include accurate weather forecasting, Geographic Information System (GIS) for government planning, highest (in single mission) and cheapest satellite launches available, successful missions to Mars and Moon, and discovery of water on the surface of the moon.

Indian private technology sector has come of age to foray into the space sector. Interestingly, many private companies are involved in manufacturing critical components of Indian launch vehicles and satellites. More than 50 companies are involved with ISRO in the current ecosystem. Many other start-ups have expanded their work to orbital systems and Data analysis from space too. This marked an appropriate moment for India to launch an initiative to support the entry of private players in the ISRO dominated sector.

ISpA is an independent “single window” agency led by private industry experts such as Larson & Toubro, Nelco, Airtel, Mapmyindia, etc. The public sector companies represented in ISpA include NewSpace India Ltd and Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre. ISpA will play a very important role in promoting the interests of the space players through policy proposals and government actions. It will aspire to make India better equipped to deal with the demands of the future, technological challenges and promote indigenization.

To do this, ISpA will focus on creating space hubs, promote incubation and develop a culture of business led cooperation and competition too. In future ISpA will be instrumental in engaging foreign companies and countries in technology cooperation too.

India’s rapid progress in space sector is a perfect example of a developing country pursuing cutting edge research and science with limited resources. Many developing countries looking to develop the basics of their space dreams have a readymade model in India to follow. For most of the developing countries, the resources put into the space sector will need to complement their government planning and help their populations. Climate pattern tracking, weather forecasting and geospatial imaging becomes instrumental in agriculture, ground level planning and optimizing limited resources. For most of its existence, ISRO has emphasized the utility applications of space for the benefit of Indian people. That is the reason that India has advanced communication satellites, Navigation systems like GPS, and sophisticated disaster rescue forces. This has led to the development of indigenous services in the case of television satellite services, research and data collection. All this in turn made the space sector both domestically beneficial for common man and also affordable for the developing country. Any such service using foreign companies would be many times costly and limited in utility.

During the launch of the Indian Space Association, Indian PM remarked that Space reforms in India are based on four pillars. First, the freedom of innovation to the private sector; second, the role of the government as an enabler; third, to prepare the youth for the future; and fourth, to see the space sector as a resource for the progress of the common man. The foundation of all these four pillars in itself opens the door to extraordinary possibilities.

Developing countries, especially in the NAM bloc, have limited success stories. India is certainly the country of choice to collaborate on low-cost applications and quickly fulfill the void in high-end technology. As a willing partner, India has displayed ability to partner with less-developed countries with services such as SAARC satellite for South Asian countries and other applications.

The entry of Indian private players will boost the production scales and enable mass-manufacturing of utility satellites such as for cheap communication and navigation, weather monitoring, imaging and other applications. This is a marvellous opportunity for India to market its unique achievements in low-cost space applications to the greater developing world and help humanity arise together to explore the next frontier- Space.

By Dr. Ankit Srivastava

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