INDIA: OPPORTUNITIES FOR SPACE STARTUPS

CONTEXT : PRIVATE PLAYERS are going to take the next lead in the space race this time. 

BACKGROUND : The launch of Sputnik in 1957 was a kickoff of the great space race of the 20th century, by the Soviet Union. 

  • It was a competition between the world’s great powers, the capitalist United States and the socialist Soviet Union. 

  • The space race is once again on, this time private players are on the power field to take the next leap for mankind and democratise space usage to build commercial value of importance.

  •  These developments are providing huge opportunities in India, for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the space sector. Thus it’s a promising venture for global investors.

According to a report, last year,  the Government of India created a new organisation known as IN-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre).

IN-SPACe : 

  •  It’s a “single window nodal agency” established to boost the commercialisation of Indian space activities.

  •  A supplement to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the entry of the Non-Government Private Entities (NGPEs) in the Indian space sector has been promoted by the Agency . 

  • The agency will also felicitate the private players, a swift on-boarding, in the sector through encouraging policies in a friendly regulatory environment.

  • The agency will also felicitate the private players, by creating synergies through already existing necessary facilities.

CASE OF INDIA :- Today, the space economy, currently is a $440 billion global sector.

  • The share of India in this- hardly less than 2% in the sector.

  • Though, India is a leading space-faring country with end-to-end capabilities to make satellites.

  • India- develop augmented launch vehicles.

  • India- deploy inter-planetary missions. 

In FY21, total early-stage investments in space technologies → $68 billion.

India → 4th place with investments in about 110 firms (total approx $2 billion)

OBSTACLES- 

The extensive brain drain in India 9increased by 85% since 2005)

REASONS for the lack of independent private participation in space – 

    •  Due to the policy bottlenecks (that create hindrances for private space ventures and founders to attract investors, making it virtually non-feasible to operate in India)

    • The absence of a framework to provide transparency and clarity in laws

    • Licences

    • Liability

    • Insurance and indemnification clarity, in case of a mishap

For example- space operators are required to hold insurance of up to AUD$100 million under Australian space law.

Like in France, where there are 4 obtainable licences in addition to case-by-case authorisation, with lack of clarity surrounding costs” , similarly India should also devise and legislate .

As a part of the system:- Currently, many private entities are involved in equipment and frame manufacturing by –

    •  Outsourced specifications 

    •  Leased licences

Indian space private companies need to generate their intellectual property for an independent product or service. This will help open the door to global markets.

Mature space agencies such as –

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) →  U.S.A. 

  • China National Space Administration (CNSA) → China

  • Roscosmos (Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities) → Russia

All these take the support for complex operations beyond manufacturing support, such as sending crew and supplies to the International Space Station,  from private players like –

  •  Boeing

  •  SpaceX

  •  Blue Origin

These companies have brought the revolution in the space sector by-

  •  reducing costs

  •  turnaround time 

  •  innovation and advanced technology

  • For such purposes, NASA and the CNSA award a part of their annual budget to private players.

 Until 2018, SpaceX was a part of 30 missions of NASA, getting over $12 billion under contract.

TO CONCLUDE – 

  • With ISRO being the guiding body, India can now evolve as a space start-up hub for the world

  •  The sector in India is in the embryonic stage with limitless possibilities. 

  • Already 350 plus start-ups such as AgniKul Cosmos, Skyroot Technologies, Dhruva Space and Pixxel have established firm grounds for home-grown technologies with a practical unit of economics. 

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