Indian Space Policy 2023 – Provisions and Gaps

Current Affairs

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced the Indian Space Policy 2023 which has been approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security.
  • The policy aims to play a pivotal role in the entry of India into the new space age.
  • However, it requires to fulfill all the relevant legislation along with certain norms and guidelines.
  • Till the 1990s, India’s space industry and space economy was known through ISRO.
  • There was limited involvement of the private sector in creating the ISRO designs and specifications.

Why there is a Need to Introduce Private Players into Space Sector?

  • India Lags far behind in Space Economy: The global space economy is currently valued at about USD 360 billion. Despite being one among a few spacefaring nations in the world, India accounts for only about 2% of the space economy.
  • Harnessing the Full Potential of India’s Space Sector: Today, while ISRO’s budget is approximately USD1.6 billion, India’s space economy is over USD9.6 billion. Broadband, OTT and 5G promise a double-digit annual growth in satellite-based services.
  • It is estimated that with an enabling environment, the Indian space industry could grow to USD 60 billion
    by 2030, directly creating more than two lakh jobs.
  • Private Sector has revolutionised the Space Sector: Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic
    have revolutionized the space sector by reducing costs and turnaround time while In India however, players within the private space industry have been limited to being vendors or suppliers to the government’s space program.
  • Enhancing Security: The security and defence agencies spend nearly a billion dollars annually to procure
    earth observation data and imagery from foreign sources. This much reliance on foreign entities can put
    India’s security at stakes.
  • Bringing Aatmanirbharta in Space Sector: Today, more than half the transponders beaming TV signals into Indian homes are hosted on foreign satellites, resulting in an annual outflow of over half a billion dollars.
  • Promoting Entrepreneurship in Space Sector: There is a need to promote private sector activity in all high technology areas including space, to fully unlock the potential of India’s youth and entrepreneurs.
  • Making Space Industry at par with Global Industry: Promoting the private sector will enable the Indian space program to remain cost competitive within the global space market, and thus create several jobs in the space and other related sectors.

What were India’s Past Quests to Reform in its Space Sector?

  • The First Satellite Communication Policy: It was introduced in 1997, with guidelines for foreign direct investment (FDI) in the satellite industry that were further liberalised but never generated much enthusiasm.
  • Remote Sensing Data Policy: It was introduced in 2001, which was amended in 2011; in 2016, it was replaced by a National Geospatial Policy that has been further liberalised in 2022.
  • Draft Space Activities Bill: It was brought out in 2017, which went through a long consultative process and lapsed in 2019 with the outgoing Lok Sabha. The government was expected to introduce a new Bill by 2021, but it appears to have contented itself with the new policy statement released by ISRO.

What are the Gaps in the Policy?

  • The policy sets out an ambitious role for IN-SPACe but provides no time frame for the necessary steps ahead.
  • Neither is there an indicative timeline for ISRO’s transitioning out of its current practices nor is there a schedule for IN-SPACe to create the regulatory framework.
  • The policy framework envisaged will need clear rules and regulations pertaining to FDI and licensing, government procurement to sustain the new space start-ups, liability in case of violations and an appellate framework for dispute settlement. IN-SPACe is a regulatory body but doesn’t have legislative authority.
  • IN-SPACe is expected to authorise space activities for all, both government and non-government entities. Currently, its position is ambiguous as it functions under the purview of the Department of Space.

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