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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : India-U.S. space cooperation, from handshake to hug


Source: The Hindu


  • Prelims: Current events of international importance(India-US relations), space programmes etc
  • Mains GS Paper II: Bilateral, regional and global grouping involving India, Significance of Indo-Pacific for India etc



  • India and the United States agreed to advance space collaboration in several areas, under the ‘initiative on critical and emerging technology’ umbrella, including human space exploration and commercial space partnership.
    • This follows from the eighth meeting of the S.-India Civil Space Joint Working Group (CSJWG),




India-US Relations:


  • India-U.S. bilateral relations have developed into a “global strategic partnership.
  • Relationship is based on:
    • Shared democratic values
    • Increasing convergence of interests on bilateral, regional and global issues.


Areas of Cooperation:



India and the US important programmes and their advantage:

  • The U.S. Artemis programme: launching the Orion spacecraft towards the moon and bringing it safely back to earth.
  • India: set to embark on its first human spaceflight mission (Gaganyaan) in 2024.


Advantages of collaboration:

  • Significant in advancing the private space sector.
  • These endeavors will shape and impact S. and Indian space policies and programmes.
  • India could secure technologies and expertise by collaborating with an advanced spacefaring nation
  • The U.S. could strengthen its relationship with India on a matter that seems less controversial than others.


Structural factor that limits long-term India-U.S. space cooperation:

  • Mismatch in the two nations’ interests in outer space.
    • The U.S. has committed to returning to the moon — and this time to stay there for the long term.
    • Artemis Program, the Artemis Accords, and the Biden administration’s National Cislunar Science & Technology Strategy constitute the foundation for American ambitions beyond earth orbits.
    • India’s scientific community focuses on building the nation’s capability in and under earth orbits.
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) currently undertakes fewer than 10 launches each year.
    • The Gaganyaan human spaceflight programme hopes to sustain India’s human presence in space for the long term.
    • India’s top priority is to substantially increase its satellite and launch capabilities in earth orbits and catch up with other spacefaring nations such as China.
  • The asymmetry in capabilities:
    • The U.S. has the highest number of registered satellites in space.
    • It also has a range of launch vehicles serving both commercial and national-security needs.
    • The American private sector has also assumed the challenge of replacing the International Space Station by 2030 with many smaller stations.
    • Challenge: The country has just over 60 satellites in orbit and cannot undertake double-digit launches annually.
    • The Indian government opened the space industry to the private sector only in 2020.
    • The U.S. already has an extensive network of partners for space cooperation, it has few technical incentives to cooperate with India.
  • Even though countries have a mindset to collaborate, the structural factors overpower diplomatic incentives to pursue long-term cooperation.



  • Sustain the engagement between academics, the private sector and state-led entities in the two countries.
  • Collaborating on highly specialized projects such as the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission.


Way Forward

  • India-U.S. cooperation can advance at a measured pace, to enable sustainable long-term civilian and military space partnerships.
  • India and the U.S. must find novel solutions to cooperate in the new space age to achieve a meaningful partnership.
  • Partnership between state and private entities; or a convention of American and Indian aerospace companies to advance collaboration under the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) programme.
    • Such an arrangement could be taken further.
  • India could send its astronauts to train at American private companies:This could help India reduce its dependence on Russia while ISRO builds its own astronaut training center.
  • Consortium led by the government-owned NewSpace India Limited which involves private companies in the U.S.
    • This setup could accelerate India’s human spaceflight programme and give the U.S. an opportunity to accommodate Indian interests in earth orbits



Q. Discuss India’s achievements in the field of Space Science and Technology. How the application of this technology has helped India in its socio-economic development?(UPSC 2016) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)