With the live transmission of the Tokyo Olympics in 1960 through satellite 'Syncom-3', the world realized the importance of space technologies. Recognising the benefits of satellite communications, the Department of Atomic Energy formed the Indian National Committee for Space Research ("INCOSPAR”) in 1962. With the launch of India’s first rocket from Thumba near Thiruvananthapuram in November 1963, India's space program took off. Thereafter, the Indian Space Research Organisation (“ISRO”) was formed on August 15, 1969, and superseded INCOSPAR. ISRO's main objective was to harvest the benefits of outer space for India and mankind through science, engineering and technology. In 1972, the Department of Space (“DOS”) was set up and ISRO was brought under DOS.
After undertaking more than 116 spacecraft missions, 90 satellite launches and putting over 385 foreign satellites in orbit by ISRO, India realized that to (i) enhance its space capabilities, (ii) commercially harness the space technology and (iii) be a global power in the space technology, the private sector needs to play a bigger role. Accordingly, India opened up and liberalised the space sector in 2020 which paved way for over 100 new companies to enter the sector. However, India still accounts for less than 2% market-share in the USD 440 billion global space market.
Indian Space Policy, 2023 (“Policy”)
To boost its global space economy from less than 2% to 10% and from USD 7 billion to USD 50 billion by 2024, to institutionalise the participation of private sector in the sector, and to shift ISRO's role as an enabler than a regulator, the Cabinet Committee on Security approved the Policy on the 06th of April 2023. This is a very unique, flexible and forward-looking Policy with many firsts in Indian legislation which may catapult India into top global space powers.
Salient Features & Role of various entities
The Policy, by delineating the roles and responsibilities of ISRO, New Space India Limited (“NSIL”), Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (“IN-SPACe”), Department of Space (“DOS”), non-governmental, private and other entities (“NGE”), brings in much clarity in space reforms, encourages and promotes the private sector participation in the entire value chain of the space economy.
Following the broad roles and responsibilities of the different entities/departments will provide the private sector with the clarity that it has long sought.
IN-SPACe shall function as an autonomous government organization to provide guidelines, regulate the sector and promote, handhold, guide and authorise space activities in India. IN-SPACe shall also act as a single window agency for the authorization of space activities by government entities and NGOs. The primary role of IN-SPACe can be summarised as below:
Define frameworks for developing space industry standards, based on global benchmarks.
Ensure a level playing field for the utilization of all facilities created using public expenditure, by prioritizing their use among government entities and NGEs.
Enable the establishment of specialised technical facilities by NGEs within the premises of DOS and easy access for government entities and NGEs to space-based remote sensing data collected through public expenditure.
Subject to guidelines and regulations provided by IN-SPACe, NGEs will be allowed to undertake end-to-end activities in the space sector through the establishment and operation of space objects, ground-based assets and related services, such as communication, remote sensing, navigation, etc.
Prescribe guidelines to address liability aspects arising out of potential damages due to the space activities.
NGEs shall be allowed to undertake end-to-end activities in the space sector through the establishment and operation of space objects, ground-based assets and related services, such as communication, remote sensing, navigation, etc. This would be subject to such guidelines/regulations as may be prescribed by IN-SPACe.
NGEs shall further be encouraged to offer national and international space-based communication services, establish, and operate ground facilities for space object operations, disseminate remote sensing data, use Indian orbital and non-Indian orbital resources, manufacture and operate space transportation systems, provide end-to-end services for safe operations and maintenance in space and many more.
ISRO will primarily focus its energies on research and development, new space technologies and new systems and expanding the human understanding of outer space. It will act as an enabler and facilitator rather than dominating entity for the progress of the space sector.
NSIL, as the public sector undertaking shall manufacture, lease, or procure space components, be responsible for commercialising space technologies and platforms created through public expenditure and service the space-based needs of users, whether Government entities or NGEs, on sound commercial principles.
DOS shall be the nodal department for implementation of the Policy, oversee the division of responsibilities, ensure the availability of data, participation in international efforts in the sector, establish the framework for safe and sustainable space operations and dispute resolution.
The Policy shall not only create a level playing field for all the stakeholders but shall also provide a strategic roadmap for the innovation, competition, growth and development of India's space program, and international cooperation while ensuring the safety and security of space activities.
Considering the rapid technological developments and changes in the sector, flexibility is the most exciting and of its kind aspect of the Policy. The Policy provides for case-to-case basis assessment or approval or authorisation from IN-SPACe for engaging in space activity even if any such specific activity or requirement doesn't align with the Policy.v