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Approach:

  1. Introduction on space privatization.
  2. Mention the space policy scenario towards privatization.
  3. Examine the space activities bill with its provisions and few cons.
  4. Conclusion.

In 2021, the Indian Space Association was launched in New Delhi for bringing in critical technology and investment into India besides formulation of policy framework to fulfill the vision of making India a global leader in the space sector. This is juts the latest step towards expansion of the role of private players in space industry – a more liberalized space sector.

India’s space policy scenario: despite having one of the most successful & cost-effective space programme in the world, India accounts for only 2% of the global space economy. The main reasons are lack of space specific laws and effective monopoly enjoyed by ISRO over all space-related activities. India’s current space activities are governed by few international treaties along with Satellite Communication Policy (SATCOM) and Remote Sensing Data Policy (RSDP). Until recently, the need for domestic space law was not felt as space is thought of as an international concern. Also, the private sector has recently shown willingness to invest & play a bigger role in this sector for realizing the potential of India’s commercial space activity.

ISRO has come up with a National Space Transportation Policy in 2020 to provide hand-holding, promotion and guidance of private enterprises through regulatory requirement. Further, government has created IN-SPACe and New Space India Ltd (NSIL)IN-SPACe will act as the nodal authority for any orbital launch by any private entity for within or outside India as well as usage of facilities; whereas, NSIL will serve as a marketing arm of ISRO to private clients.

Space Activities Bill:  ISRO introduced the Space Activities Bill, aimed at promoting & regulating private sector’s role in space activities. The 2017 draft bill lays down the basic legal framework for creating a regulatory mechanism for a wide array of duties. It defines the persons & objects that would fall within the purview of domestic space law and mandates the central government to form a Space Activity Regulatory Mechanism.

The most important feature is that it lays down the mechanism for granting license and regulating private entities for commercial space activities according to the International treaties India is signatory to. It implies, if passed, private players can launch rockets and conduct commercial explorations with authorization and supervision of government. It also contains a risk-sharing mechanism determining the quantum of liability due to damage caused by space activities.

Although the intent is laudable, some provisions seem problematic. The clause on absolute protection against government violates the basic feature of judicial review. It takes a heavy-handed regulatory approach by subjecting parties to numerous binding conditions.

The bill is presently under consideration, yet to be presented before the parliament.

It is estimated that the space economy will be US$ 5 trillion by 2050. Internationally too, the space sector is opening up to private players, the most prominent being SpaceX. Keeping with this trend, the steps taken are praiseworthy. The formation of ISpA and inclusion of indigenous and global corporations are clear examples of thrust towards opening up India’s space economy for commercial utilization. With its cost-effective technology and ISRO as pillar, India has the potential to become a world leader in global space economy. The only need is framing a domestic space law that can change India’s future for better.

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