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A launch window for India as a space start-up hub

Context:

The great space race of the 20th century was kicked off by the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957. It was a competition between the world’s great powers, a test of their ideologies, which proved to be a synecdoche of the entire Cold War between the capitalist United States and the socialist Soviet Union.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology (Space Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Space Race?
  2. Significance of Private Players in Space
  3. Challenges of Private Players in Space Field
  4. India as a Very Marginal Player in the Space Race
  5. Indian Space Agencies
  6. Indian Potential in the Space Sector
  7. Way Forward

What is the Space Race?

  • The space race was a series of technological experiments between the United States and the Soviet Union in order to demonstrate dominance in spaceflight.
  • The Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, kicking off the epic space race of the twentieth century.
  • It turned out to be a metaphor for the whole Cold War between the capitalist US and the socialist Soviet Union.
  • It sprang from the Cold War of the mid-twentieth century, a severe worldwide battle that pitted the ideas of capitalism and communism against one another.

Significance of Private Players in Space

  • Mature space agencies, such as the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), China’s China National Space Administration (CNSA), and Russia’s Roscosmos (Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities), seek assistance from private players such as Boeing, SpaceX, and Blue Origin for complex operations that go beyond manufacturing support, such as sending crew and supplies to the International Space Station.
  • With innovation and innovative technology, these businesses have revolutionised the space sector by lowering prices and turnaround time.

Challenges of Private Players in Space Field

  1. Brain Drain: Significant aspect to throw light on is the extensive brain drain in India, which has increased by 85% since 2005.
  2. Loopholes in Policies: Brain drain might be connected to policy bottlenecks that make it difficult for private space companies and entrepreneurs to acquire investors, making it almost impossible to operate in India.
  3. Lack of Private Participation: The absence of a framework to give openness and clarity in rules is one of the reasons for the lack of independent private participation in space.
  4. Issues with Liabilities and Space Insurance: Another critical feature of space law is insurance and indemnity clarity, namely who or which organisation assumes obligation in the event of a mistake. There is a cap on responsibility and the financial damages that must be paid in some Western nations with a developed commercial space sector. In reality, under Australian space legislation, space operators are required to carry insurance for up to AUD$100 million.
  5. As a part of the system: Many private businesses are already active in equipment and frame fabrication, using either outsourced specs or leased licences. NASA and the CNSA allocate a portion of their annual budgets to private players for this reason. Until 2018, SpaceX was a member of 30 NASA missions, receiving approximately $12 billion in contracts.

India as a Very Marginal Player in the Space Race

  • The space economy is a $440 billion worldwide industry, with India accounting for less than 2% of the total.
  • Despite the fact that India is a prominent space-faring country with end-to-end capability for manufacturing satellites, developing enhanced launch vehicles, and deploying interplanetary missions, this is the case.
  • The space race has significant consequences for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in India’s space sector and is a viable endeavour for global investors.

Indian Space Agencies

  • The Indian government established a new organisation called as IN-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre).
  • It is a “single window nodal agency” set up to promote the commercialisation of Indian space operations.
  • The agency supports the entry of Non-Government Private Entities (NGPEs) in the Indian space industry as a complement to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • The agency will also promote the quick onboarding of private sector companies by encouraging policies in a conducive regulatory environment and generating synergies through previously existing essential infrastructure.

Indian Potential in the Space Sector

  • India is presently on the verge of developing a space ecosystem, and with ISRO as the leading agency, India may now flourish as a global space start-up powerhouse.
  • The sector is in its infancy, and the opportunities to establish a viable company strategy are endless.
  • Already, over 350 start-ups, like AgniKul Cosmos, Skyroot Technologies, Dhruva Space, and Pixxel, have laid the groundwork for home-grown technologies with a viable economic unit.
  • However, in order to sustain the development engine, investors must see the industry as the next “new-age” boom, and ISRO must transition from a supporter to a facilitator.
  • To guarantee that the sky is not the limit, investor trust must be boosted, and unambiguous rules must be set.

Way Forward

  • Ensuring investor confidence needs to be pumped up and for the same, clear laws need to be defined.
  • Breaking activities down into multiple sections, each to address specific parts of the value chain and in accordance with the Outer Space Treaty.
  • Dividing activities further into upstream and downstream space blocks.
  • Providing a solid foundation to products/services developed by the non-governmental and private sectors within the value chain.
  • Creating value, Indian space private companies need to generate their intellectual property for an independent product or service.

-Source: The Hindu

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October 2022
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