Does the Latest Indian Space Policy 2023 Set the Stage for the Private Sector
The Indian Space Policy – 2023 has recently received government approval. According to the policy, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the country's space agency, would concentrate mainly on the study and creation of new space technologies and uses, as well as on deepening human understanding of the universe.
The policy is referred to as one that will position India and launch the Indian Space Sector in the twenty-first century.
The goal of the Indian government's vision for space is to use it as a tool to advance socioeconomic growth and security, safeguard human life and the environment, and encourage peaceful space exploration. The government wants to achieve this by encouraging a thriving business presence in space and using it to advance both international relations and technological advancement.
The government is implementing a comprehensive strategy to realize this ambition by encouraging private sector involvement throughout the whole value chain of the space economy. In order to meet national priorities, it is intended to promote advanced research and development in the space industry and offer public products and services. Therefore, it is claimed that through IN-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion & Authorisation Centre), the government will provide a stable and predictable regulatory framework to offer Non-Governmental Entities an even playing field.
Key Takeaways from the Policy
The policy establishes four separate but connected bodies that will enable increased private sector involvement in tasks that have typically been under the purview of the ISRO.
The policy discusses the creation of IN-SPACe, a self-governing agency that will support, direct, and approve space activities in the nation.
With NGEs (non-government entities, which will include private enterprises) and government companies, it will also exchange technologies, products, procedures, and best practices.
Benefits for the Private Sector
India now has a less than two percent market share in the global space economy, but its space policy is said to enable it to reach 10 percent in the future.
Secondly, this policy is expected to clear 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.
By encouraging private-sector investment, allowing private corporations to carry out space missions has benefited countries like the United States.
According to the policy, global competitiveness will suffer. Private companies can aid nations in maintaining their competitiveness in the space industry given the growing interest in space research around the world.
The current policy is the latest in a long line of similar initiatives that, unsurprisingly, failed due to incorrect presumptions about national priorities in the space sector, the interests and capabilities of India's private sector, and the interests and motivations of foreign entities to invest in India's space sector. Repetition of all these flaws and a failure to learn from past mistakes are claimed to be its problems. By adding multiple new, major violations of both Indian and international legal frameworks, it worsens prior errors in judgment.
Many a Duties Await for the NGEs
From now on, these NGEs may do a variety of assignments, including designing and operating satellites, creating launch systems, and installing and using tracking and control systems on the ground. It can be assumed that FDI in the sector is not ruled out since the Policy does not identify the form of these NGEs or the place and function of foreign investment in them, especially given that an earlier Draft Space Activities Bill of 2017 had that stated objective.
According to the PIB announcement, the Policy is based on the premise that the private sector should be unrestricted to commercialize the design-development and production skills in the Indian space sector. The objective is to increase India's modest two percent market share of the $360 billion global space industry. According to industry experts, India might increase its market share by up to five times, or $ 9–10 billion, by 2030.
The Indian space start-up industry is clearly thriving and brimming with potential, but in terms of scale and funding, the companies lag well behind international behemoths. Prior to recently, private enterprises in India primarily served as subcontractors for ISRO's rocket launchers, satellites, and ground-tracking systems, producing minor or large components, subassemblies, or assemblies. A demand-driven ecosystem will replace one that is supply-driven, according to the new Policy.
The Actual Nature of the Policy
The Policy relies on a well-known Indian government structure of entities that are allegedly autonomous but actually work under the constant supervision of the Department of Space (DoS), which answers directly to the PMO. The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-Space), which performs the functions of authorization or permitting space activities, supervision (regularly issuing guidelines and procedures to be followed), promotion and hand-holding of private players for ease of doing business, and regulator, all rolled into one, is one of the four pillars of the policy structure.
This model has two features that are significant.
First, it offers a free-for-all environment for private players in the same way that it does in practically all industrial and commercial sectors where "regulatory agencies," which are also tasked with promoting ease of doing business, in fact work to deregulate the industry.
The second closest analog to this model that cuts across all governments is the DGCA (Director General of Civil Aviation), which certifies the airworthiness of aircraft, supervises and evaluates air traffic controllers, and finally looks into its own performance in the event of an accident.
The launch of India's new space policy marks an important turning point in the development of a commercial space ecosystem, but significant issues remain that must be resolved in order to fully reap the advantages of private sector involvement. To ensure that the strategy results in a successful and long-lasting commercial space economy in India, it would be crucial to provide clear instructions on how the government and other institutions will actively engage with private start-ups.