IN-SPACe and beyond
India's space programme has travelled a long way, redefining contours of our space capabilities with the turn of the century. Laudable missions speak of our capacity to excel in an area that very few countries hold exclusive access to. India's space journey has only attracted more attention and turned more heads in the contemporary age. It was India's growing space programme through ISRO's earnest effort for 50 years that has opened the door to space reforms today. On Wednesday, as the government unveiled a new entity of the Department of Space, the contours of the Indian space programme were inherently redefined. The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre or IN-SPACe will ensure greater participation of private players in India's space sector. Opening up the space for private players is a mutually positive measure for ISRO and private companies besides the general development of the country's space prowess. IN-SPACe will essentially cater to a demand-driven market that has come of age to increasingly require the assistance of space tech to supplement its applications across sectors. Be it communication, weather, agriculture, transport, etc., the demand for satellite technology and services is on the rise. And, an indigenous and capable space programme greatly serves the purpose. However, the idea is not to do a bare minimum. In fact, the growing space market has to be leveraged by India in two ways.
Foremost is providing private players with a platform to augment their space-related industrial activity. IN-SPACe can ferry them from being a mere supplier of components and sub-systems to being a full-fledged service provider capable of undertaking space projects such as launching satellites. Given the impetus, private players can further their endeavours to develop launch vehicles, rockets, satellites and even a launchpad in which ISRO can provide initial expertise. Undertaking such projects would not only provide employment to a large workforce but open up prospects for engineering and designing. A country with engineers in abundance automatically benefits from this aspect. Secondly, India ought to create a large clientele through NSIL whereby other nations can also approach India for its space services at a fair cost. The financial aspect would be beneficial in funding more projects and driving India's GDP higher. India has already shown its capability in delivering massive payloads to space when its PSLV-C37 successfully carried and deployed a record 104 satellites in sun-synchronous orbits. Both ways, India can tap on the growing space market and regionally emerge as a leader in space services. Besides, India's cost-effective space engineering would even attract NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, etc., to collaborate on a variety of projects in future.
Harnessing the potential for space expertise through private players also provides ISRO more time to focus on R&D. With IN-SPACe allowing private players to compete and develop space projects and NSIL effectively managing the commercial arm through a demand-driven market, ISRO can focus on space exploration, newer technologies and future missions such as Gaganyaan. The ecosystem of the three organisations puts India's space programme at a much elaborate stage than ever. With SpaceX becoming the first private company to launch people into space recently, there exists enough prospect and motivation for others to emulate the feat. Though SpaceX poured in nearly two decades of research and experiments to perfect its Falcon 9 rocket to NASA's satisfaction, the fact that it created the world's first orbital-class reusable rocket is a testimony to humankind's infinite capacity for innovation. Through the latest reforms in the space sector, India can achieve new heights in its space programme which has been lauded across the globe for its determination to excel despite odds. Chandrayan and Mangalayan are cases in point. Not just ISRO but the whole society will benefit from these reforms. While IN-SPACe takes three to six months to become effective, the coast is clear for private players to exhibit capacity and add more pages to India's glorious space history.