Rockets can be owned, created, and launched by private companies and they can also construct a launch pad

Pawan Goenka, chairman of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), the official government space agency, said that private enterprises in India will finally be permitted to launch their own commercial space projects by the end of this year.

Goenka said that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will be the only user of the first batch of five Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLVs) produced by a partnership between Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Larsen & Toubro Ltd.

This would be the first time a whole rocket was constructed outside of the space agency.

However, according to Goenka, once the first phase of privately-built PSLV deployment is finished, future PSLVs will be supplied to the private sector as well, allowing them to execute larger commercial missions with these higher-capacity launch vehicles.

Government’s Space Policy

In June, the IN-SPACe headquarters, established to encourage private investment and innovation in the space industry, was officially opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also said that Indian firms would emerge as leaders in the global space sector.

While previously the space sector was closed to private firms, the government opened it up for all by bringing reforms, said Modi, adding that “we have removed all restrictions by bringing reforms in the space sector”.

He also said that in order to create winners in the space sector, IN-SPACe will help private businesses.

“I am hopeful that like in the IT sector, our industry will also take the lead in the global space sector,” Modi said, adding that the central government has been working on a new space policy which will provide ease of doing business in the space sector.

The Space Policy 2022 is currently in its final stages of development after significant consultation with industry stakeholders. Once released, it will outline how the private sector might contribute to technology transfer, remote sensing, and satellite communication.

Recently, ISRO chairman Dr S Somanath, imaging satellites, which were formerly only owned by the Indian space agency and the defence, will henceforth be held by private companies under the Space Policy 2022.

There would be only investments made by India-based enterprises. If FDI exceeds 70%, it will be restricted and subject to government approval, said Somanath.

Additionally, rockets can be owned, created, and launched by private entities as well and they can also construct a launch pad.

“There are many missions planned for this year. We will launch a recently developed small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV) by this month-end or at the beginning of August… Test and trials are on for the Gaganyaan program,” he told the media during a press brief in Coimbatore.

However, the policy would be followed by the much-anticipated space law, which has been on hold for a while. Meanwhile, the business community has called for a review of the punitive sections of the law.

It should be noted that according to Economic Survey, there are presently 101 start-up businesses, of which 47 joined the market in 2021 and 21 in 2020.

It highlighted that the Indian space sector is predicted to grab a larger share of the global space economy, with private sector engagement. At the moment, India accounts for only around 2% of the space economy, behind the key players in this space race – the United States and China.

It is understood that the increased commercial participation in the Indian space sector followed a global trend in which space is transitioning from a government-driven sector to one in which the private sector performs end-to-end space activities.

The government believes that in two years, India will have its own SpaceX-like initiatives as the centre prepares to boost satellite production and enable a wider role for private actors in the space sector.

According to Ajay Kumar Sood, the Principal Scientific Advisor to the government, the space industry’s full potential is still unrealized, and the government will promote private satellite manufacturing for a variety of uses, including health care, agriculture, as well as urban development.

In June, he said that following consultations, the new space policy’s final draft will soon be sent for additional review, to the Empowered Technology Group, which aims to proactively lay down, coordinate, and oversee national-level policies relating to “procurement and Induction of technologies”, “R&D in technologies that require large outlays in resources, both financial and human” and “render sound and timely advice for determining direction and trajectory of Government’s R&D and Technology Development Programs”.

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