-PRAGYA MISHRA (CONTRIBUTOR)
The successful launch of ‘SpaceX Crew Dragon’, a SpaceX product, with the assistance of NASA, left the entire world mesmerized and gaping at the greater opportunities that lie in the near future. This alliance is first of its kind that has restored people’s faith in the eminence of knowledge and favouring instrumentality of the cooperative forces. The successful test launch of SpaceX Crew Dragon opens promising avenues for other vision-driven private ventures.
India, with its new initiative called IN-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorising sector) is all set to break the conventional barriers put up by the lack of collaboration with the private parties in advanced technological developments. Government’s interest in widening the horizons of the Indian space sector is evident by its vision to establish India as the world’s launchpad and to place an Indian astronaut in space by 2022. Such vision can only be met by addressing the ground reality of India’s scientific advancements and carrying out regulative measures.
Alliance with the private sector was long overdue as till this date India contributes only around 3% of the total $360 billion space economy. There is a huge chasm to fill in terms of expertise as well as equipment quality. Even though the annual budget of ISRO has increased in the recent years, it requires a fresh wave of ideas and profound engagement to meet the demands from various space-based services across India.
SPACE RACE 2.0
The world witnessed its first space race in 1970s when Soviet Union and USA were at loggerheads, both eyeing on sending their man to the moon. While the two-sided competition is now a thing of the past, it has become imperative for ISRO to be an active and visible participant in the Space Race 2.0. This space race is not just about sending nation’s space explorers to space but revamping the toppling space economy and restructuring the bien pensant space infrastructure. The rise in global competition accompanied by the pressure at home ground has compelled the government to set up a mediator between ISRO and private companies interested in investing in space related activities. It is not the first time that ISRO has sought for private allies, the earlier attempts include the setting up of Antrix Corporation and NSIL (National Space India Limited). However, IN-SPACe has been specifically set up to decrease the excessive work-load from ISRO’s shoulders and make space exploration a familiar ground for private players. In order to gain long-lasting and gradual momentum in the space sector, it is imperative to promote scientific expeditions and upgrade research methodologies.The GSLV MkIII test Mission | Source : SpaceNews
ATTENUATING THE EXCESS PRESSURE
Over the recent years the demand for several space-based services have added undue pressure on ISRO’s limited resources. Satellite launch is one of the key areas where the ISRO’s resources have been widely used. These range from weather reports, agricultural updates and commercial enterprises such as DTH systems.
Private sector’s involvement will ensure the input of greater human-force and intelligence. Even though the private sector accounts for 80% of the satellite and rocket production, IN-SPACe aims to create a key role for private players in manufacturing the launch vehicles. This will not only truncate the utilisation of ISRO’s resources but will also open avenues for it to perform better researches and plan space missions. It is high time that we redefine the role of ISRO vis-à-vis national development and encapsulate the scientific developments within the overall developmental endeavours of the country.
Lagging behind in scientific headway is unfavourable for a prosperous future that the government envisions. IN-SPACe if run with the ethos of national development and scientific advancement can prove to be a boon for Indian space sector. It is high time that we cross the SATCOM fence (referring to communication via satellite) and open possibilities for escalating developmental projects.
The Space Activities Bill, 2017 failed to pass in the parliament. The bill, even though it was centred around regulation and promotion of space, envisioned keeping ISRO at a dominant position. Failure of this bill and change in the global demands must push the government towards creating a level playing field for all the interested candidates in the private sector. NASA’s endeavour to rope in private tech-giants for technical and infrastructural assistance has been a benefitting bet. Such successful collaborations are built upon the policies of mutual trust and developmental ethos. Revamping policies with respect to the private players is the only way to ensure a larger share for the Indian space sector in the global space economy.
STRIKING A BALANCE
Introducing the private sector in space activities also comes with challenges of its own. Not many private giants have shown interest in playing a profound role in the space sector, thus it is imperative to generate zeal for the same. The need is to strike a fine power balance between the two sectors because in a neo-liberal era of development, the threat of private domination looms large. The principle of ‘serving the nation’ that binds together the workforce of ISRO cannot be compromised by commercial ventures. In order to secure an everlasting spot amongst the influential nations in the space sector there is a need to strike a harmonious balance between the national needs and deep space explorations.
In order to cater to the ‘vision, mission and objectives’ of ISRO India awaits a shift from conventional ventures to an entrepreneurial expedition. Adequate space laws, systematic and timely regulation of policies, and an unprejudiced approach towards public-private alliances will help India determine its position in the global space sector.
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