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Startups are powering India’s Space Odyssey 2.0

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Achievements of Indians in science & technology.

 

Source: Live Mint

Context: With the space sector opening up, startups have begun to rapidly transform the industry.

 

 

Measures for encouraging the private sector in the space programme:

 

  • Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) in Ahmedabad.
    • IN-SPACe is an autonomous, single-window nodal agency; formed to promote, authorise, monitor and supervise the space activities of NonGovernmental Private Entities (NGPEs) in India.
  • With the formation of IN-SPACE, over 100 companies have come up in this sector and in 2022 they raised as much as $110 million.
  • Reforms in the space sector enable more private players to provide end-to-end services.
  • NewSpace India Ltd (NSIL), is mandated to transfer the matured technologies developed by the ISRO to Indian industries.
  • Change in strategy: the present supply-based model has been changed to a demand-driven model, wherein NSIL shall act as an aggregator of user requirements and obtain commitments.
  • Regulatory regime:
    • The first to be updated was the SpaceCom and SpaceRS policies, further liberalizing the traditional Satellite Communication and Remote Sensing sectors, respectively, thus enabling entrepreneurs and industries to take up end-to-end activities in these domains

 

Private players’ entry will support the Indian space Industry in the following ways:

  • Participation in the private sector will give rise to new innovations and technology.
  • It will provide an opportunity to harness the talent pool in the country, by providing them with immense opportunities for exploration.
  • A reduction in the cost of operation with efficient practices, building a supply chain to accommodate the downstream players.
  • Also, it will allow procuring non-Indian orbital resources to build their space-based systems for communication services in and outside India.

Private players find smaller satellite markets a more lucrative option.

Advantages of smaller satellites:

  • Smaller satellites use industry-grade rather than space-grade components.
  • These smaller satellites are parked closer to earth, where radiation is lower and have a shorter lifespan.
  • Moreover, while an INSAT class satellite will cost at least ₹400 crores, smaller satellites can be built for just ₹10 crores
  • Above all, they do not need large launch vehicles such as the PSLV or GSLV, which cost ₹300 crore and ₹450 crores, respectively.
  • Potential: According to European Space Agency data, anywhere between 70,000 to 100,000 satellites will be launched in the next 15 years and over 80% will be small satellites weighing less than 500 kg.

 

Role of ISRO in the Private space industry:

  • The private sector will rely on ISRO for infrastructure—be it launch facilities, tracking systems, technology transfers and capacity building
  • ISRO will focus on non-commercial greater complexity scientific missions such as focusing on deep-space missions and putting an Indian in space through its Gaganyaan
  • ISRO has set up NewSpace India Ltd (NSIL) to handle the commercial end of the business.
  • ISRO is the 6th largest space agency in the world and holds an exceptional success rate
  • Indian Space Association (ISpA): ISpA aspires to be the collective voice of the Indian Space industry.
  • The introduction of the Indian Space Activities Bill will give greater clarity to private players on how to be an integral part of the space sector.

 

Limitations of the private sector in space: 

  • Policy Bottlenecks: India is yet to legislate specific space laws to regulate the private sector. Hence, ensuring openness and clarity about the working framework becomes difficult in the current situation.
  • Monopolization: Space is capital intensive industry, and only a few rich corporates can afford the investment. Hence, accommodating all players and ensuring an equitable platform becomes difficult.
  • Funding: India’s space budget of $1.7 billion (in 2022) was minuscule compared to the US’s $30 billion and China’s $14 billion (which includes $1 billion from its private players).
  • Profit Motive: Space in general, should be an enabler of Technological equity for citizens. This aspect becomes difficult to ensure when private entities operate with profit interest.
  • Intellectual property issue: The lack of a robust space-centric IPR policy in India, raises issues regarding sharing and diversification of space resources.

 

Conclusion

At present, India needs a space policy, which can be clear and liberal on private players. With this proposed new policy for space, India wants to tap into the private sector, which could help the industry grow.

 

Mains Links:

The mission Prarambh, marks the Indian private sector’s first foray into the promising space launch market, opening opportunities for the privatisation of space which is heavily dominated by ISRO. Discuss.

 

Prelims Links:

With reference to India’s satellite launch vehicles, consider the following statements: (UPSC 2018)

  1. PSLVs launch the satellites useful for Earth resources monitoring whereas GSLVs are designed mainly to launch communication satellites.
  2. Satellites launched by PSLV appear to remain permanently fixed in the same position in the sky, as viewed from a particular location on Earth.
  3. GSLV Mk III is a four-staged launch vehicle with the first and third stages using solid rocket motors; and the second and fourth stages using liquid rocket engines.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3
(c) 1 and 2
(d) 3 only

Ans: A

The satellites in geosynchronous orbits appear to remain permanently fixed in the same position in the sky. Hence, statement 2 is not correct.

GSLV-Mk III is a three-stage launch vehicle with four liquid strap-ons. The indigenously developed Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS), forms the third stage of GSLV Mk III.