Context: The Union Cabinet recently approved far-reaching reforms in the Space sector aimed at boosting private sector participation in the entire range of space activities.

About the proposed reforms:

  • The decision taken is in line with the long-term vision of the Prime Minister of making the country self-reliant and technologically advanced.
  • Creation of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe).

Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe)

  • It will be the new entity of the Department of Space.
  • It is supposed to be a facilitator, and also a regulator. 
  • It will act as an interface between ISRO and private parties, and assess how best to utilize India’s space resources and increase space-based activities.
  • Composition: It will have its own chairperson and board.
  • Setup: The entity will have its own directorates for technical, legal, safety and security, monitoring and activities promotion.
  • Functions:
    • It is to be created to provide a level playing field for private companies to use Indian space infrastructure.
    • It will also hand-hold, promote the private industries in space activities through encouraging policies and a friendly regulatory environment.
    • It will regulate and promote the building of routine satellites, rockets and commercial launch services through the Indian industry and startup.
    • It will assess the needs and demands of private players, including educational and research institutions, and explore ways to accommodate these requirements in consultation with ISRO.
  • It will function autonomously and parallel to ISRO without taking away anything from it.
  • Empowering New Space India Limited (NSIL):
  • New Space India Limited (NSIL) would endeavour to reorient space activities from a ‘supply-driven’ model to a ‘demand-driven’ one, thereby ensuring optimum utilization of the nation’s space assets.
  •  NSIL will work with IN-SPACe and enable industry consortia to take on some of the activities of ISRO. 
    • These include launch vehicles and satellite production, launch services and space-based services.
  • Instead of just marketing what ISRO has to offer, NSIL would now also listen to the needs of the clients and ask ISRO to fulfill those.
  • ISRO to focus on core activities:
    • These reforms would allow the ISRO to focus more on research and development activities(R&D), new technologies, exploration missions and human spaceflight program.
    • Some of the planetary exploration missions will also be opened up to the private sector through an ‘announcement of opportunity’ mechanism.
    • Currently, too much of ISRO’s resources are consumed by routine activities that delay its more strategic objectives. And there is no reason why ISRO alone should be launching weather or communication satellites.
      • ISRO, like NASA, is essentially a scientific organization whose main objective is the exploration of space and carrying out scientific missions.
  • Proposal of a new Satellite Navigation Policy:
    • The older ones, namely Remote Sensing Data Policy and the SatCom Policy of 2000, are being revised.
    • The policy has a strategic military element to it.’
  • Making available ISRO’s existing infrastructure
    • Both ground- and space-based, scientific and technical resources, and even data of ISRO are planned to be made accessible to interested parties to enable them to carry out their space-related activities.
    • Private companies could even build their own launchpad within the Sriharikota launch station, and ISRO would provide the necessary land for that.

Involving the private players

  • Background:
    • Currently Indian private industry is also involved in India’s space sector.In fact, a large part of the manufacturing and fabrication of rockets and satellites now happens in the private sector. 
    • There is an increasing participation of research institutions as well.
    • Currently, more than 500 Indian industries are contributing to ISRO programs and more than half of the project budget outlay flowed to these industries.
  • Low share of Indian industry in the global space economy
    • Indian industry had a barely three percent share in a rapidly growing global space economy which was already worth at least $360 billion. 
    • Only two percent of this space market was for rocket and satellite launch services, which require fairly large infrastructure and heavy investment. 
    • The remaining 95 percent related to satellite-based services, and ground-based systems.
  • Lack of resources
    • Indian industry is unable to compete, because till now its role has been mainly that of suppliers of components and sub-systems
    • They do not have the resources or the technology to undertake independent space projects of the kind that US companies such as SpaceX have been doing, or provide space-based services.
  • Growing demand for space-based applications and services within India
    • The demand for space-based applications and services is growing even within India, and ISRO is unable to cater to this. 
    • The need for satellite data, imageries and space technology now cuts across sectors, from weather to agriculture to transport to urban development, and more.
    • ISRO would have needed to be expanded 10 times the current level to meet all the demand that is arising.

Key benefits:

  • It will help in making Indian industry to be an important player in the global space economy.
    • Space sector can play a major catalytic role in the technological advancement and expansion of India’s industrial base.
    • These announcements will not only result in an accelerated growth of this sector but will also present an opportunity for large-scale employment in the technology sector and India becoming a global technology powerhouse.
  • The proposed reforms will enhance the socio-economic use of space assets and activities, including through improved access to space assets, data and facilities.
  • Mitigating the need of large scale investments 
    • The reforms are also aimed at mitigating the large investments required to set up facilities for undertaking space activities through the sharing of such existing facilities under ISRO.

With these reforms, the space sector will receive new energy and dynamism, to help the country leapfrog to the next stages of space activities.

New Space India Limited (NSIL)

  • It is a wholly-owned Government of India undertaking/ Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE), under the administrative control of the Department of Space (DOS).
  • It would serve as a marketing arm of ISRO.
  • Its main purpose is to market the technologies developed by ISRO and bring it more clients that need space-based services.
  • Roles and functions
    • Small Satellite technology transfer to industry, wherein NSIL will obtain license from DOS/ISRO and sub-license it to Industries.
    • Manufacture of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) in collaboration with Private Sector
    • Productionisation of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) through the Indian Industry.
    • Productionisation and marketing of Space-based products and services, including launch and application.
    • Transfer of technology developed by ISRO Centres and constituent units of DOS.
    • Marketing spin-off technologies and products/services, both in India and abroad.


Antrix Corporation

  • It is a wholly-owned Government of India Company under the administrative control of the Department of Space.
  • As a marketing arm of ISRO for promotion and commercial exploitation of space products, technical consultancy services and transfer of technologies developed by ISRO. 
  • Another major objective of the corporation is to facilitate development of space-related industrial capabilities in India.
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