Indian Private Sector in Space
This article deals with ‘Indian Private Sector in Space‘. This is part of our series on ‘Science and Technology which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.
- Under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan, the Government has envisioned the private sector’s role in India’s space programme, including satellites, launches, and space-based services.
- The Government also announced Space Park in Bangalore in 100 Acres, where companies will set up their plants to synchronize their projects.
- ISRO is also taking up various steps to promote the Indian private sector in space. These include
- The private sector has been allowed to use ISRO facilities and other relevant assets to improve their capacities.
- ISRO is helping a consortium of companies to build polar satellite launch vehicles.
- In 2018, ISRO had signed a contract with three companies to build 27 satellites in three years.
- Draft Space Activities Bill, 2017 was proposed to promote and regulate space activities of India. It talked about the participation of private-sector agencies in space activities in India under the guidance and authorization of the Department of Space.
- Antrix is the private arm of ISRO & is helping ISRO to get commercial deals.
Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe)
- The Government of India has created In-SPACe to boost private sector participation in the entire range of space activities like building routine satellites, rockets and commercial launch services.
- It will have its directorates for technical, legal, safety and security, monitoring and activities promotion. It will function autonomously and parallel to ISRO.
New Space India Limited
- NSIL is the commercial arm of ISRO.
- It was incorporated in 2019 as a Government-owned enterprise.
- The main functions of NSIL include
- NSIL will enable Indian industries to build the capacity of the domestic market for space manufacturing.
- NSIL will facilitate the transfer of ISRO technologies to the industry.
- The launch of a Brazilian satellite named ‘Amazonia-1’ in 2021 was the first commercial deal of NSIL.
Private Space Agencies
- Owned by Elon Musk.
2. Blue Origin
- Owned by Jeff Bezos (of Amazon).
- The primary rocket system of Blue Origin is called New Shephard, which will take tourists to space 100 km above Earth and start a new space tourism industry.
- In June 2021, New Shephard auctioned the first ticket for space tourism sold for $28 million.
3. Virgin Galactic
- Owned by Richard Branson.
- The company is working on space tourism.
Indian Space Association (ISpA)
- ISpA is an industrial body which consists of various stakeholders in the Indian space industry.
- It acts as a single-window agency for opening the Indian space sector for the private sector and building global linkages.
Indian Space Startups
Various Indian Startups are also coming into this business. Latest examples
Earth2Orbit (India’s first space startup) has been set up to solve climate change from outer space.
2. Pixxel India
- Pixxel India is a Bengaluru-based startup.
- It is working on a project to place a large number of Remote Sensing Satellites for continuous observation of every part of the Earth, and data thus generated will be used for climate change, agriculture and urban planning.
- The first satellite of Pixxel India has been named called Anand.
3. Dhruva Space
- It is a Bangalore based startup.
- It is the first Indian startup that will design and manufacture satellites with the capacity to manufacture 10-12 satellites annually.
4. Exseed Space
- Mumbai based startup.
- It launched India’s first private satellite named ExseedSat-1 in 2018 using SpaceX’s Falcon-9 launch vehicle.
- It is India’s first private satellite built by space startup Exseed Space.
- It was launched by SpaceX using Falcon-9 launch vehicle in 2018.
- It is a small satellite weighing 1 Kg.
- This satellite will boost the amateur radio community and provide a big boost to private radio operators, along with helping the country in times of disaster.
Benefits of entry of private players
- Increasing demand for satellites with the need to launch 18-20 satellites every year. With the existing ISRO workforce, it is challenging to meet this target, and the private sector can play a role here.
- Getting latest innovations and trends: Public-Private Sector collaboration will boost the Indian space sector as the private sector can get access to ISRO’s cutting edge technology and innovations.
- Reducing dependence on taxpayer’s money: Involvement of the private sector will help the government save government funds as private capital can be used to carry out expensive space projects.
- Job creation: It will help in creating new jobs in the high skilled space industry.
- Achieve our geopolitical objectives: Given the current geopolitical situation of the country and security threats, growth in the space sector can help the country gain leverage over others.
- Security and strategic concerns as critical and sensitive information may fall into the wrong hands.
- Conflicts of interest: As ISRO is both a regulator and an operator, this conflict of interest will likely manifest during dispute resolution between private players and ISRO entities.
- It is a hazardous business involving negative returns and failures. Very few companies may have the appetite to bear the cost of such losses.
- Social welfare may take a backseat: ISRO has always worked on applications like remote sensing, tracking of land use, resource mapping etc., enhancing social welfare. However, private companies will have more profitable interests than developing solutions.