IN-SPACe: Unlocking India’s potential in the Space Sector
Following the resounding success of ambitious projects such as the Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan, the Indian space programme is ready for the next step. Leading the nation’s efforts since 1969, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is currently working towards launching Gaganyaan—India’s first manned spaceflight mission.
‘We have decided that by 2022, when India completes 75 years of independence, or before that, a son or daughter of India will go to space with a tricolor [Indian flag] in their hands,’ Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced back in 2018. In line with the vision of the head of state, an independent nodal agency to facilitate private participation in the space sector has been formulated under the Department of Science (DoS). This new agency, termed the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe), aims to ensure increased participation from the private sector in India’s space activities.
Image: Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)-C51. India’s PSLV-C51 successfully launched Amazonia-1 along with 18 co-passenger satellites in February 2021 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. PSLV-C51/Amazonia-1 is the first dedicated commercial mission of NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), Department of Space, Government of India.
IN-SPACe: Reshaping the future of Indian Space Exploration
The IN-SPACe initiative was announced as part of India’s novel attempts to widen the horizons of space research. The single-window nodal agency works between ISRO and the Non-Government Private Entities (NGPEs), accelerating the participation of NGPEs in India’s space exploration activities.
ISRO Chief K. Sivan believes that the move is a ‘major reform’ and ‘ … the private sector will be enabled to carry out space activities like building of rockets, satellites, providing launch services on a commercial basis and be part of interplanetary missions of ISRO’.
Announcing the initiative in an online briefing, Sivan added that IN-SPACe will have its own directorates for technical, legal, safety and security, activity promotion as well as for monitoring purposes so that they can take an independent decision.
ISRO chief addressing the media, Courtesy DD News
IN-SPACe is a regulatory body under the Department of Space, a body that enables and regulates space activities in India. The agency will have a chairperson and team of experts from multiple departments associated with space research, and academic institutions.
IN-SPACe will have a built-in mechanism to allow sharing of technology, infrastructure, and expertise to encourage the participation of NGPEs in space activities. Enhancing the diffusion of space exploration between public and private sectors, the initiative will help boost India’s space economy.
Watch R. Umamaheshwaran (Scientific Secretary, ISRO), as he describes the organization and operations of In-SPACe and while talking about enabling mechanisms for private players to carry out space activities at a webinar on "Unlocking India's Potential in Space Sector" in August 2020.
Why does this matter?
ISRO’s contribution in pushing the frontiers of space sciences in India has been significant. Opening up of the sector will have an impact in India but globally. Prof K. VijayRaghavan pointed out that these reforms come with an opportunity “to increase both volume and quality in extraordinary ways.”
IN-SPACe will provide a balanced playing field for private entities in India’s space exploration through an encouraging regulatory environment for optimum utilization of the nation’s space assets. Association of the private parties will strengthen our efforts ‘ … to open up the space sector and make space-based applications and services more widely accessible to everyone’, Sivan said. IN-SPACe would help reform ISRO's research and development (R&D) activities through the innovative utilization of space technology and infrastructure. With advanced capabilities in the space sector, the IN-SPACe initiative would be a determining factor that will help the country prosper in space research.
The IN-SPACe initiative is a step to the future. The agency aims to transform India’s space activities from a ‘supply-driven' model to a ‘demand-driven' model. It aims to pave the way for upcoming prospects in launch vehicle and satellite production, launch services as well as space-based services.
The ISRO chief expressed his confidence in the initiative during an old interview in 2018, ‘[The] PM has given the target of 2022 and it’s our duty to meet it … we have completed many technologies like the crew module and escape systems. The project has been underway; now we need to prioritize and achieve the target.’
The new policy would also help the space industry to fill in India’s communication infrastructure deficit, according to experts. With pioneering missions like the Gaganyaan in line, the possibility of increased engagement from the private sector might usher in a new age for India’s space program.