WILL ISRO LEAD THE SPACE RACE?

When one thinks of Space Agencies, the first to come to one’s mind more often than not, is NASA.


Earlier, the space industry was dominated by a space race between Soviet and American Agencies. The Cold War that began in 1947 pitted the capitalist USA against the communist Russia. In the late 1950's space became an important sector for this competition. Each side wanted to prove its superiority in terms of technology and missions. This space race intended to prove technological supsuperiority and by extension who had a more powerful political-economic system.

However, in recent years China’s CNSA and India’s ISRO are growing at a rapid pace and establishing their global dominance. India’s space industry has seen exponential growth. India's advancement in the space industry has been recognised by nations all through the world. Global giants have distinguished India to have incredible potential for the future.


The Beginning

Dr Vikram Sarabhai, better known as the founding father of the Indian Space Programme, recognized the benefits of space technologies for India. Dr Vikram was convinced that investing in resources in space will unlock India’s potential. To formally advance space activities, the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was set up in 1962. Consequently, the Indian Space Research Organisation was set up in 1969. The Indian Department of Space (DOS) took control of ISRO in 1972 under the Space Commission and thus began India’s climb to success in space.


Earlier this Industry was dominated by a space race between Soviet and American Agencies. However, in recent years China’s CNSA and India’s ISRO are growing at a rapid pace and establishing their global dominance. India’s space industry has grown over the years to become one of the most cost-effective and well-developed space programmes in the world. International giants such as Amazon have identified India to have great potential for investment and advancement.


Foreign Investment

The government of India has allowed up to 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in satellites-establishment and operation. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, owners of Amazon and Starlink which are dominant global technology companies, are looking to provide internet services in India. Both have approached the Department of Telecommunication with plans to allow them to sell high-speed broadband internet in the country using a constellation of satellites. Satellite-based broadband will introduce a massive change in communication as it will aid in connecting hard to reach dark zones such as far-off rural areas and cut off terrains such as deserts, mountains and sensitive areas which are not accessible by the traditional broadband infrastructure.


From Public to Private


The Indian government has approved reforms to improve private sector participation in space activities. To boost the space economy within the country, the department of space aims to encourage the participation of private companies in space activities. The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) will provide opportunities to private companies to use Indian space infrastructure and also promote private entities in the space industry through reforming policies and reducing the regulations in place. This initiative by the Government of India has successfully created investment opportunities for private companies to invest in Indian space initiatives. Space Enterprise Encouragement & Development (SEED) is an early-stage encouragement program for innovative small businesses and start-ups to develop products/services in-focus areas of interest to ISRO.


Government Support

To transform and increase the potential of space technology along with the goal to make India self-reliant and technologically advanced in the space domain, the government has unleashed a series of reforms. The Government of India has proposed Rs. 13,949 cr to the department of Space as against the allocation of Rs. 9,500 cr. In 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Indian Space Association. This Association aims to contribute to the Government of India’s vision of making India self-reliant and a global leader in the space sector. The association will assist in the formulation of an enabling policy framework that helps fulfil the Government’s vision. ISA will contribute to strengthening international relations and bringing in technology and investments which will help create more high skill jobs.


What drives growth?

India’s deregulation, FDI policy and privatisation has been a significant driver of growth in the space industry. Antrix Corporation Limited, the commercial firm for the Department of Space, has undertaken many initiatives to market Indian space products and services globally. New Space India Limited (NSIL) has made it possible for industries in India to upgrade high-tech manufacturing bases. India has 4 kinds of launch vehicles, all of which have had successful missions that have put India on the map. The Department of Space has in place various space programs and promotes research in various established institutions across India which help attract innovative youth to the space sector.


International Cooperation

International cooperation is crucial for the growth and success of an industry. The Indian space industry has various international ties. India is associated with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). Along with that, India is also a member of the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN-COPUOS). ISRO plays an active contributing role in various international conferences such as the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). International Cooperation plays an integral part in this industry’s development. India, has recognised this fact, has entered into several agreements with international organs to expand internationally.

The NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR) Mission aims at studying hazards and global environmental change. Set to be launched in 2023, this mission will measure the Earth’s changing ecosystems, dynamic surfaces and gather information about biomass, natural hazards, sea level rise and groundwater. ISRO also has a long-standing partnership with France having conducted 2 joint missions, Megha-Tropiques and Saral. ISRO contributes its expertise and satellite data to manage natural disasters through various multi-agency bodies like the International Charter for Space and Major Disasters.


Innovations- The Secret to Success


Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has come together with NITI Aayog, an Indian government think tank, to develop a detailed geographic information system (GIS) energy map of India. The GIS map provides imaging of all the energy resources of the country from power plants to coal fields. District-wise data about renewable energy resources have been made available with this map. The map identifies and locates all primary and secondary sources of energy and their transmission paths to provide a comprehensive view of energy production and distribution in the country. Space Grade Li-ion cells are another successful innovation. These cells are power sources for satellite and launch vehicle applications. This is due to the following reasons- high energy density, reliability and long cycle life. Innovations by the Indian Space Research Organisation, directly and indirectly, impact man and society. Information from space systems is used by various factions of society to benefit and assist in the progress.


All these developments are directed towards accelerating the growth of India’s space industry. Deregulation, opening doors to private enterprises and international bodies are positive steps in the path of progress. The progress this industry has made recently is phenomenal and promising. Promoting and assisting scale development of enterprises, strengthening technology, emphasis on study and research and promotion in the commercial and international space will help ensure sustained development and allow the Indian space Industry to scale new heights.



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