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More thrust to private sector participation in Indian space policy

Three years after opening up the space sector to private entities, the Union government Thursday released the Indian Space Policy document that sets out and formalises the roles of private and government entities in the sector — including envisaging the Indian Space Research Organisation as a body that moves beyond manufacturing into research and development.

The release of the document came after the cabinet on April 6 approved the Indian Space Policy 2023. The policy aims to not only create space-based resources and services, but also promote research and development along with education in the space sector.

Private companies, referred to as non-governmental entities in the policy, will be allowed to undertake end-to-end space activity — launching and operating satellites, developing rockets, creating ground stations, building spaceports and mobile launch platforms, and providing services like communication, remote sensing and navigation, nationally and internationally.

Private entities have also been encouraged to develop space situational awareness capabilities — a mechanism to track objects in space and avoid collision of satellites and space stations with each other or space debris.

The policy also says that private players can engage in “commercial recovery” of asteroids or space resources. The companies will be entitled to “possess, own, transport, use, and sell” such resources in accordance with law.

The policy comes three years after the space sector was opened up to private players, formalising the approval processes. So far, all approvals came on a case-to-case basis by Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre.

Lt Gen AK Bhatt (Retd), director general of the Indian Space Association, said: “This policy provides much-needed clarity on all space activities, especially regarding space communication and other applications. With this policy clarity, we are confident that IN-SPACe and DoT will work speedily to ensure necessary clearances for private players in India. The policy will help to create opportunities for the private sector… to provide end-to-end solutions in the space sector.”

As per the policy, the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) will be the single-window agency for authorisation of all space activities.

ISRO, meanwhile, has been asked to move away from routine activities and focus on research and innovation.

“Transition out from the existing practice of being present in the manufacturing of operational space systems. Hereafter, mature systems shall be transferred to industries for commercial exploitation. ISRO shall focus on R&D in advanced technology, proving newer systems and realisation of space objects for meeting national prerogatives,” the policy states.

The government’s commercial arm, New Space India Ltd, has been asked to commercialise technologies and platforms created by government entities, manufacture, lease, or buy space technologies or assets, and provide space based services to government as well as private entities.

The Department of Space has been asked to implement the policy, interpret and clarify any ambiguities and establish a framework for safe and sustainable space operations. Indian Express

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