leveraging-the-space-ecosystem

Context: “NewSpace” is a rapidly growing market that will be worth hundreds of billions of dollars in the next decade and India needs to leverage the same.

More on News:

  • On May 30, history was created by SpaceX when NASA astronauts were launched into orbit by the first-ever commercially-built rocket and spacecraft. 
  • A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft was launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station.

India and Space Sector:

  • Recently, the Finance Minister announced a ground-breaking initiative by opening up space and atomic energy to private players, referring to them as “fellow travellers”.
  • The welcome reforms announced by the FM include the levelling of the playing field for private companies in satellites, launches and space-based services by 
    • introducing a predictable policy and regulatory environment to private players and
    • providing access to geospatial data and facilities of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Potential of Space Sector:

  • Many doors of opportunity are opening in this sector. Reportedly, more than 17,000 small satellites will be launched in Low Earth Orbit by 2030. 
  • Exciting Indian space-tech startups are emerging in this area.
    • For instance, Prixxels, founded by two BITS Pilani graduates, is building a constellation of nano-satellites to provide global, real-time and affordable satellite imagery services. 
    • Bengaluru-based startup, Bellatrix Aerospace offers novel “electric propulsion” systems, which have applications in the field of nano and micro-satellite propulsion. 
    • And Mumbai-based startup Manastu Space has developed a “green propulsion” system using hydrogen peroxide as fuel. 

Unleashing the Potential:

  • First is the crucial issue of funding
    • We must trust and support early-stage innovations through “adventure” capital, not just risk-averse venture capital. 
    • We also need “patient” capital, as the lead times are long in this sector.
    • The government can be the provider of such adventure and patient capital. 
    • It did so in 2000, when we at CSIR launched the New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative. 
      • CSIR gave very low-interest soft loans to early-stage startups, who explored radical ideas. 
      • After proof of concept, other financial instruments, including venture capital, became available
    • So, the public-private partnership that the FM is referring to should be in financing too, not just in development.
  • Second, startups need a head start in the market and the current public procurement system is heavily loaded against them. 
    • The lowest-cost-selection approach must change to lower total cost of ownership. 
      • The concept of total cost of ownership or “TCO” is to determine a product’s true cost not just based on the price but on all the costs it takes to purchase and maintain the product during the entire time it is owned.
      • This includes Selection, Acquisition, Shipping, Receiving , Obsolescence Costs etc. 
  • Third, we need to create a robust space tech-startup national innovation ecosystem comprising incubators, accelerators, scalerators and mentors. 
    • ISRO has a pivotal role in anchoring this initiative.
    • Just as important will be the synergy with the government’s flagship programmes such as Digital India, Startup India, Make in India, Smart Cities Mission, etc.
  • Fourth, we urgently need a law that allows private players to participate across the space value chain, not just bits of it, as is the case today. 
    • The draft Space Activities Bill, introduced in 2017, has lapsed. This is an opportunity to rewrite it with a bold perspective.

Conclusion:

To achieve above reforms we need “aatmavishwas”  — self-belief and trust. If we build this atmavishwas with bold policies coupled with determined actions, then we can certainly pole vault to a great new future, and sooner rather than later. 

New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative:

  • It is the largest PPP (Public-private partnership) model of Research and Development programme in the country. 
  • The main aim of the project is to catalyse innovation and technological developments.
  •  It is based on the premise of consciously and deliberately identifying, selecting and supporting potential winners. 
  • NMITLI has carved out a unique niche in the innovation space and enjoys an excellent reputation.
  • An innovative feature of the programme is that it provides financial support to all players in the project. 
    • The financial support is in the form of grant-in-aid to the institutional partners in public domain and 
    • as soft loan with 3% interest to the private sector industrial partners having more than 50% of shareholding by Indians/Non-resident Indians and 
    • with 5% interest to the private sector industrial partners having less than 50% shareholding by Indians/Non-resident Indians but with manufacturing base in India.  

 

Space Activities Bill, 2017:

The bill encourages the participation of Indian industry and service providers at much higher levels in all round space activities under the technical guidance and authorization of the Government through the Department of Space.

Key Provisions:

  • The provisions of this bill shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India.
  • A non-transferable licence shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity.
  • The Central Government will formulate the appropriate mechanism for licencing, eligibility criteria, and fees for licence.
  • The government will maintain a register of all space objects (any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop more space activity plans for the country
  • It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity
  • It will ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of a space activity.
  • It will share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
  • If any person undertakes any commercial space activity without authorisation they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than ₹1 crore or both.

 

Key Terms:

  • Adventure capital: It  is capital needed in the earliest stages of the venture's creation before the product or service is available to be provided.
  • Patient Capital: Patient capital is another name for long term capital. With patient capital, the investor is willing to make a financial investment in a business with no expectation of turning a quick profit. 
    • Instead, the investor is willing to forgo an immediate return in anticipation of more substantial returns down the road

Source:

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/a-new-frontier-spacex-isro-6439685/

Image Source: Indian Express