Private firms can offer end-to-end space services: Isro chief K Sivan

Isro chief K Sivan said IN-SPACe will act as a national nodal agency for hand-holding and promoting private sector in space endeavors
The government’s recent reforms for the space sector will not only enable private companies to build rockets and satellites but also let them use the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (Isro’s) facilities, said K Sivan, secretary of the Department of Space and chairman of Isro.

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved In-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre) as a separate vertical for permitting and regulating the activities of private industry in the space sector, in a bid to increase its share of 2 per cent in the $360-billion global space industry.

“We need to have a mechanism for private players to carry out space activities keeping in mind safety, security, and quality. At present, there is no such mechanism. The new reforms will address these issues,” said Sivan, terming the government’s move as “a significant reform”.

IN-SPACe will have its own independent directorates for technical, legal, safety & security, monitoring as well as promotion of activities for assessing the private industry requirements and further coordinating the activities. Sivan said IN-SPACE would have a board comprising representatives from industry, academia, and the government. “We believe that private sector can play a larger role than be just supplier of parts and components,” said Sivan, adding that private players would be allowed to provide end-to-end space services. Till now, ISRO was the end-to-end player in the Indian space sector.

Industry welcomes reforms

S M Vaidya, executive vice-president and business head of Godrej Aerospace, said the public-private partnership was a step in the right direction, and autonomy to both Isro and private industry was the need of the hour.  “While doing so, we must have good controls on justified usage, ensure safety in all our operations and consider environmental, sustainability aspects,” he said.

This will also promote start-ups and give required impetus to small and medium enterprises.

Pawan Kumar Chandana, founding member of Space Federation of India and chief executive of Skyroot Aerospace, said Indian start-ups were fully prepared to build rockets and satellites. He said the Space Federation had a big role to play now as a voice for the private space sector was necessary more than ever.

JD Patil, whole-time director (defence & smart technologies), L&T, said: “The reforms would enable private sector companies like L&T to grow from subsystems partner to Isro to produce and integrate launch vehicles, ground control and monitoring networks and consider, someday, to take on commercial launching of satellites.”

Vishesh Rajaram, managing partner of venture capital firm Speciale Invest, which invests into deep science and technology and has invested into Agnikul Cosmos, Kawa Space and Astrogate Labs in the space sector, said that the opportunity in space was both large and wide across both upstream opportunities (that include ground propulsion driven by reducing cost of launch, in-space propulsion driven by green-fuels, satellite miniaturisation and photonics-based satellite relay and communication to make communication both faster and cheaper) and down-stream on drawing business intelligence from space data.

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