Late last month, the government of India approved and announced the formation of a new regulatory body called Indian National Space Promotion & Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe). This move is hinted to level the playing field and encourage participation of private players to provide a boost for Indian space exploration. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) along with the Government of India plan to make space more accessible to everyone, and this is one of stepping stones into building that paradigm.
Present Private Involvement
Though salty, ISRO has had an active engagement with the private sector for nearly 50 years and a large part of satellite manufacturing and fabrication is now being outsourced to different companies. Generally, the present role of the Indian industry in the space spectrum has been of suppliers of raw material and sub systems. This has been going on for many years now, and no further scope for involvement has led to a stagnation in the growth of those industries which is essentially one of the reasons why we do not have a SpaceX like company here.
Leading space travelling nations, like the US and China, have privatised their space operations which has significantly increased their output, simply because space exploration is really expensive and demanding.
Why is this the right call?
The privatisation of ISRO has been a topic of debate for some years now. However, in the present world it appears to be more of a necessity than an option owing to the surging demands and leaping global competition. The reasons are as follows –
- More Resources
As we all know of how tough, unpredictable and expensive space exploration is, and the huge amount of input required to obtain a substantial output, it is but natural that more resources would lead to better results. ISRO has been one of the most innovative space agencies across the world for quite some time now. However, with the ever speeding world, and increasing competition, privatisation of ISRO would not only put more brilliant minds on the job, but it would also give them more tools to work with. Not to mention the funds to carry out more missions every year, this essentially would provide a significant boost to India’s space operations.
- Strategic Benefit to ISRO
Presently, too much of ISRO’s resources, and time is being consumed in routine and not-so-huge space activities which is increasing the required time frame for its more ambitious missions of the future. These activities, like launching and management of weather satellites, are being taken up by private players across the world for business reasons and there is no reason why this cannot happen here too. This move, therefore, would free up ISRO to concentrate on science and research, putting more focus in future missions and inter planetary exploration. A number of missions, like the Gaganyaan and the Chandrayaan-3 are lined up for the near future and with everyone doing what they do best, ISRO and the Indian space legacy will be able to reach new heights.
- Prevent Brain Drain of Indian Intelligentsia
The very limited opportunities available at ISRO and other major scientific organisations, coupled with the huge number of extremely capable population that goes out looking for work but fails to find any, India probably has one of the worst cases of brain drain across the world. This is also the same reason why so many of us grow up wanting to leave our country for work, because the availability of it is so scarce. Privatisation of ISRO would help in the expansion of the Indian space realm, thereby providing more opportunities and helping to keep indigenous talent in the country to an extent. This again, would benefit in the bigger picture of an improved and more able national space organisation.
- Exploding Space-Based Economy
According to the chairperson of ISRO, K Sivan, the global space based economy is all set to ‘explode’ in the recent future. Embracing the move to increase ISRO privatisation, he said that this reform would increase the capacity and capability of the Indian space industry leading to the entire country being able to make economic benefits off of its space developments. Not only will this act as an accelerant to the sector, it would also enable the Indian industry to play a vital role in the genre of the global space economy.
What to expect?
Following the government announcement, IN-SPACe is slated to become functional in about six months alongside the announcement of further reforms and the development of an inclusive policy for a better relationship across companies and ISRO. This historic move would increase the vehemence that ISRO would command, along with an improved armoury of resources and manpower. All of that combined, we could expect them to reach heights like we have never seen before, and essentially go on to take on the world in the much anticipated ‘Space Race’.