14th February – In space age, India awaits a lift-off

India’s frugal pitch in the global space sector can be gauged by the fact that how the missions cost less than the budget to make Hollywood films. Still, India’s share in the estimated $360 billion global space industry is less than two per cent. Currently, the market is dominated by the US followed by Europe.

Why India is not racing ahead?

  • The reasons include not much emphasis on enhancing commercial activities, which has resulted in minimal participation of private sector, being closely regulated and controlled by the Department of Space (DOS).
  • Although several companies have engaged with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as suppliers and component manufacturers, they have never been vested with the responsibility of end-to-end manufacturing of space systems, despite private sector engagement going back to the 1970s.
  • The absence of an enabling regulatory framework is perhaps the biggest challenge that needs to be ironed out. This could be removed once the Space Activities Bill is cleared by Parliament as it would pave the path for private participation by clearly enunciating the laws related to intellectual property rights.

Significance of private participation –

  • Private players can bring in the necessary capital, technical know-how and business acumen, and will free precious ISRO resources for it to concentrate on R&D, inter-planetary missions and cooperation with other agencies for space exploration.
  • The private industry could bring multiple benefits for India, including development of a self-sufficient industry contributing significantly to national income and foreign exchange reserves.

What needs to be done?

  • Today, the need of the hour is for the industry to graduate from vendor to partner and provide end-to-end solutions.
  • Ambitious schemes such as Bharatnet and Digital India need more satellites and launches. This gap can be filled by investment and participation of the industry, for both the launch vehicles and later manufacturing of communication, earth observation and navigation satellites, if there is a level playing field and a legal and regulatory framework.
  • The legal and regulatory framework is a must to cater for aspects of liability, insurance, safety, launch risks, debris and protection of intellectual property rights. Currently, launches by private players are not covered by insurance companies. The framework for how to conceive, adopt and implement a space project is also missing.
  • There is a requirement of an ecosystem of numerous small manufacturers and expansion of existing ones so as to ensure a greater share of the global space economy for India.

Conclusion –

Given the scale of opportunity, there is enough room for both private and public sector companies to co-exist. A PWC report pegs the industry could be worth $50 billion by 2024 if it plays to its strength. What is required is an enabling regulatory environment for private players to thrive.

SourceBusiness Standard

QUESTIONDespite lower costs and efficient management of space sector, India is yet to fully tap the potential of global space industry. Why? Suggest a way forward.

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