Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, in a virtual event on 11th October 2021 launched the Indian Space Association (ISpA), an industry body consisting of various stakeholders from the Indian space domain. Some of the main members of the organisation include government bodies such as Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), NewSpace India Ltd (NSIL) and private telecom companies such as Bharti’s One Web, Tata Group’s Nelco, L&T, MapMyIndia, and others.
ISpA to Support India’s Space-based Commercial Aspirations
The idea to create IspA was realised after Indian PM’s December 2020 meeting with industry representatives who wanted to work in Space exploration. The Government proposed a platform for private players to raise their concerns and aspirations.
One of the main goals of ISpA is to support Government’s efforts towards making India a global leader in commercial space-based excursions.
ISpA will help in capacity building and creation of space hubs as well as incubators in the country for private space start-ups. It will work in tandem with NSIL, a central public sector enterprise under the Department of Space (DoS) which functions as the commercial arm for ISRO and secures launch contracts for customer satellites.
In recent years ISRO’s rockets have been successfully carrying payloads and communication satellites of various countries. Now with ISpA, private players will also look to work in this area according to their capacities.
ISpA in its statement said “IspA would engage with stakeholders across the ecosystem for the formulation of an enabling policy framework which fulfils the government vision of leading commercial space exploration”.
It further added “ISpA will also work towards building global linkages for the Indian space industry to bring in critical technology and investments into the country to create more high skill jobs”.
Significance of Indian Space Association in Today’s Space Expedition
Ever since the end of World War II a race to reach Space and then land on the Moon began between the US and the erstwhile USSR. Following this, many Government’s across the World have poured millions of dollars in their respective space programs.
In recent years, private sector companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin have forayed in areas like spaceflight, satellite launches and space exploration.
India too has made significant strides in space exploration over time, but state-run ISRO has been the only agency in the country working in space technology. Several Indian private sector companies like Bharti’s OneWeb, Tata’s Nelco have shown interest in India’s space domain, with space-based communication networks coming to the fore. ISpA would play a relevant role acting as string between Government and these Private players.
Indian Startups in Space Sector Shaping Future
The current valuation of the Global space economy stands at about USD 360 billion. Out of this India accounts for only about 2% of the space economy which is too low. With startups picking pace in various Indian industries, Indian Space Sector is also witnessing a bloom of markable startups. The Government is also trying to encourage such startups.
In October 2020, the Department of Space released a draft for a new ‘Spacecom Policy’ to allow and promote private participation in the field of space-based secured communication. Furthermore, in September 2021, ISRO released Chandrayaan-2 data on the completion of two years of operation of the orbiter. The aim has been to engage academia, students and other stakeholders within the scientific community to analyse data for future developments.
The Indian space industry has the ability to foster a thriving ecosystem of entrepreneurs and private businesses and can emulate the success witnessed in the IT and pharma sector of India. Some of the notable startups in the space sector are discussed below:
Agnikul Cosmos: Agnikul Cosmos is a Chennai based, IIT-Madras incubated space tech startup developing low-cost satellite launch vehicles. The startup claims to be India’s first private small satellite launch vehicle, Agnibaan, which is capable of carrying up 100 Kg payload to low Earth orbits up to 700 Km with a plug and play engine configuration.
Pixxel: Bengaluru based spacetech startup, Pixxel had joined hands with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of ISRO soon after the Indian Government announced new space reforms- ‘Spacecom Policy’. The startup was scheduled to launch the country’s first private remote-sensing satellite on an ISRO PSLV rocket in early 2021.
Skyroot Aerospace: Hyderabad based Skyroot Aerospace is building technologies for responsive, reliable and economic access to Space. Skyroot is also developing a futuristic, highly efficient LNG/LOX Cryogenic liquid engine that uses greener, more sustainable rocket fuel.
Bellatrix Aerospace: This Indian Institute of Science (IISC) incubated startup was founded by two 22-year-old Yashas Kharanam and Rohan M Ganapathy in 2015. The startup specialises in electronic propulsions systems, rocket engines and launch vehicles.
Founding Members of Indian Space Association
ISpA’s founding members include telecom service providers such as Bharti’s OneWeb, Engineering firm Larson & Toubro and other companies such as Nelco of Tata Group, Mapmyindia, Walchandnagar Industries and Alpha Design Technologies.
Other Core members include Godrej, Hughes India, Ananth Technology Limited, Azista-BST Aerospace Private Limited, BEL, Centum Electronics, and Maxar India.
Start-ups that have become members include Astrome Technologies, Pixxel, Agnikul Cosmos, Digantra, and Skyroot Aerospace.
ISpA in the coming future could play a vital role in enhancing the commercial efforts of Indian Space sector and contribute in India’s technological and economic growth.