Isro has launched several remote sensing satellites like Risat and Cartosat over a period of time which were later used by Indian security agencies for keeping an eye on the country’s borders, checking infiltration and planning cross-border operations like the 2016 surgical strikes. However, it is not clear how much liberty NGEs would get to venture into the strategic field as the new policy also added that “this (permission) would be subject to such guidelines or regulations as prescribed by (space regulator) IN-SPACe”.
The new policy also gives more freedom to private companies in setting up their own space assets. It said, “NGEs shall be allowed to undertake end-to-end activities in the space sector through establishment and operation of space objects, ground-based assets and related services, such as communication, remote sensing, navigation, etc. They can establish and operate ground facilities for space object operations, such as telemetry, tracking & command, earth stations and satellite control centres (SCCs). They can also use Indian orbital resources and/or non-Indian orbital resources to establish space objects for communication services over India and outside India.”
On providing space-based broadband services through a constellation of satellites, the policy said, “NGEs can offer national and international space-based communication services, through self-owned or procured or leased GSO/NGSO communication satellites.” The new policy also clearly defined the new roles of Isro, space regulator IN-SPACe and commercial arm NSIL. On IN-SPACe, the policy said, “It shall act as the single window agency for the authorisation of space activities by government entities as well as NGEs, subject to relevant government directives, keeping in mind safety, national security, international obligations and/or foreign policy considerations. On Isro, the policy said, “As the National Space Agency, it will focus primarily on research and development of new space technologies and applications, and for expanding the human understanding of outer space.”
The NSIL, the new policy said, shall be responsible for commercialising space technologies and platforms created through public expenditure. “It shall manufacture, lease or procure space components, technologies, platforms and other assets from the private or public sector on sound commercial principles. It shall also service space-based needs of users on sound commercial principles.”
The industry has reacted positively to the unveiling of the Indian Space Policy 2023. Lt Gen AK Bhatt (Retd.), director general of Indian Space Association, said, “The policy is forward-looking and will help to fulfill our PM’s vision for the growth of the space industry in India. It provides the much-needed clarity on all space activities especially regarding space communication and other applications. It will also help create opportunities for the private sector to engage in all aspects of the space industry. The policy will be a catalyst for development of a robust innovative and globally competitive space ecosystem in India.” Kranthi Chand, head (strategy & special projects) of space startup Dhruva Space, said, “The clarity of various roles in the Indian Space Policy 2023 marks a yellow-brick road for Indian private companies who not only wish to commercialise their products and to develop new technologies, but to also understand the kind of support that will be provided to them.”