New Delhi: The opening up of the space sector to private players would boost the country’s industrial base and improve access to space-based services, said K Sivan, chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), in a video address on Thursday morning.
Earlier, the Union Cabinet had announced the setting up a new arm of the space organisation — Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) – that will independently evaluate and approve space-related activities in the country.
The chairman said IN-SPACe would be an independent body.
“The government has approved the establishment of an autonomous nodal agency IN-SPACe under the Department of Space (DoS) for taking independent decisions on permitting and regulating the activities of private companies in the space sector. The decision of IN-SPACe will be binding on all stakeholders, including ISRO,” said Sivan.
IN-SPACe may take up to six months to become operational and until then, private entities can apply through the Bengaluru-based DoS.
“We will process their requirements. Private companies have approached us for using ISRO facilities. We are processing their requests on a fast-track mode,” said Sivan.
IN-SPACe will have its own directorates for technical, legal, safety and security, and promotion.
The board of IN-SPACe will also have representations from the industry, academia, and the Central government.
ISRO will share the technical expertise and facilities for promoting the private sector in space.
Private companies via IN-SPACe would be allowed to build facilities within the DoS premises as per the need and feasibility, the chairman said.
India has one rocket launch centre at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, which is also likely to be used by the private sector.
The private sector will be allowed to provide end-to-end space services, including building and launching of rockets and satellites, and providing these services commercially.
Now, all launch vehicles and satellites are designed by ISRO scientists and private players manufacture their components.
Last year, the government had set up an industry consortium to expedite the production of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), an expendable medium-lift launch vehicle designed and operated by ISRO.
The ISRO chairman pointed out the need to introduce new policies and the revamp of outdated ones in a bid to make the system more efficient.
Sivan said that the role of the New Space India Limited – the commercial arm of ISRO that was set up last year – would be modified to acquire existing launch vehicles and satellite technologies and make them commercially viable through industry consortiums. It would also undertake the transfer of technology (ToT) activities, he added.
“ISRO will continue to carry out advanced research and development, interplanetary missions, human spaceflight and capacity-building activities,” the chairman said.
Experts have been demanding that the private sector be involved in the country’s routine space activities such as the launch of existing communication and earth observation satellites, which will free up resources for critical scientific explorations.
India’s scientific space endeavours have been gathering momentum such as another lander-rover mission to the moon, solar mission Aditya L1, human spaceflight programme, and a mission to Venus in the next few years.
ISRO has had only one mission in January this year, when communication satellite GSAT-30 was launched by the France-based commercial launcher Arianespace from Kourou, French Guiana, on January 17, and since March, the country, along with the rest of the world, is busy grappling with the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.