A ground view of the Indian Space Policy 2023

Source- The post is based on the article “A ground view of the Indian Space Policy 2023” published in “The Hindu” on 10th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Awareness in the field of space

News– Recently, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) released the Indian Space Policy 2023.

What are some facts about the space industry in India?

Until the early 1990s, India’s space industry and space economy were defined by ISRO. Private sector involvement was limited to building ISRO designs and specifications.

The Second Space Age began with the licensing of private TV channels, the explosive growth of the Internet, mobile telephony, and the emergence of the smartphone.

Today, ISRO’s budget is approximately $1.6 billion. India’s space economy is over $9.6 billion. Broadband, OTT and 5G promise a double-digit annual growth in satellite-based services.

The Indian space industry could grow to $60 billion by 2030. It will directly create more than two lakh jobs.

What have been various policy instruments adopted by the Indian government for the space sector and their impacts?

The first satellite communication policy was introduced in 1997, with guidelines for foreign direct investment in the satellite industry. But it never generated much enthusiasm.

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.

A remote sensing data policy was introduced in 2001, which was amended in 2011. In 2016, it was replaced by a National Geospatial Policy. Yet, Indian users spend nearly a billion dollars annually to procure earth observation data and imagery from foreign sources.

A draft Space Activities Bill was brought out in 2017. It went through a long consultative process. It lapsed in 2019 with the outgoing Lok Sabha.

The government was expected to introduce a new Bill by 2021. Buit, it appears to have contented itself with the new policy statement.

What are the main key points related to the new space policy?

Security related aspects– There is little reference to ‘security’ in the document. The focus is on civilian and peaceful applications.

India is focussing on space-based intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, communication, positioning and navigation capabilities. it is reasonable to infer that a defence-oriented space security policy document will be a separate document.

Overall framework– The policy lays out a strategy. It spells out the roles of the Department of Space, ISRO, the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), and the NewSpace India Limited (NSIL).

ISRO role – it states that ISRO will move out of the manufacturing of operational space systems. Mature systems shall be transferred to industries for commercial exploitation.

ISRO shall focus on R&D in advanced technology, providing newer systems and realisation of space objects for meeting national prerogatives.

ISRO will share technologies, products, processes and best practices with non-government entities and Government companies.

This implies that ISRO will now use its talented manpower, to concentrate on cutting edge R&D and long-term projects such as Chandrayaan and Gaganyaan.

As ISRO’s commercial arm, NSIL will become the interface for interacting with the industry.

Role of non-government entities– Fourth, the non-government entities are allowed to undertake end-to-end activities in the space sector through establishment and operation of space objects, ground-based assets and related services, such as communication. Satellites could be self-owned, procured or leased. Communication services could be over India or outside; and remote sensing data could be disseminated in India or abroad.

The entire gamut of space activities is now open to the private sector.

IN-SPACe is expected to act as the single window agency for authorising space activities by government entities and NGEs.

What are issues with the new policy?

The policy sets out an ambitious role for IN-SPACe but provides no time frame for the necessary steps ahead.

The policy framework will need clear rules and regulations regarding FDI and licensing, government procurement, liability in case of violations. It will need an appellate framework for dispute settlement.

A regulatory body needs 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. The Secretary (Space) is also Chairman of ISRO, the government entity to be regulated by IN-SPACe.

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