On April 20, 2023, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) released the Indian Space Policy 2023 (Space policy), which was reported to have received the nod from the EU Cabinet on 6 April 2023. The space policy has been issued following the reforms announced by the government in the space field by opening doors to the participation of non-governmental entities (NGEs) and enables a level playing field. Therefore, the space policy aims to set up a composite framework to implement these reforms and create a thriving space ecosystem.
Key features of space policy
- Application and implementation: The space policy will apply to all ‘space activities’ to or from Indian territory or within its jurisdiction. Exemptions may be granted by the Government of India in certain specific cases.
- Vision and strategy: The vision of the space policy is, among other things, to improve space capabilities, encourage a thriving commercial presence in space, and create an ecosystem for the effective implementation of space applications for socioeconomic development and security, environmental protection, peaceful exploration of outer space, and public awareness and scientific inquiry. The government seeks to encourage the private sector’s participation in the spatial value chain and at the same time promote research and development (R&D), provision of public goods and creation of regulatory framework to provide a level playing field for NGEs through the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (In space). It also aims to promote space education and innovation, use space as a technological driver, promote scientific interest and raise awareness of space activities.
- Non-Governmental Entities: NGEs are permitted to participate in the space sector by establishing and operating space objects, ground-based assets and related services such as communication, remote sensing, navigation, etc. in accordance with the guidelines and regulations prescribed by IN-SPACe. Among other things, NGEs are encouraged to acquire, lease or establish their own communication satellites, operate ground facilities for space operations, use Indian or non-Indian orbital resources to establish space objects for communication services, making the International Telecommunication Union (TO) applications through the Wireless Planning Commission (WPC) / Department of Telecommunications (DoT) / non-Indian administrations to acquire orbital resources etc.
- Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre: IN-SPACE shall function as an autonomous government organization mandated to promote, guide and approve space activities in India. It will act as a single-window agency for approving space activities of government entities and NGEs subject to relevant government directives, including security, national security, international obligations and foreign policy considerations. It will authorize activities such as establishment and operation of space objects, launch and operation of launch vehicles, establishment and operation of launch pads, planned re-entry of space objects and more. IN-SPACE will also ensure registration and necessary permissions for any space object intended to be launched, and encourage the widest possible dissemination of remote sensing data and applications. IN-SPACe is also responsible for approving the use of space objects for communication/broadcast services to or from Indian territory in coordination with other concerned departments of the Government of India.
- ISRO: As per the space policy, ISRO will focus on research and development of new space technologies and expand human understanding of outer space. It will conduct applied research and development in space infrastructure, transportation, human spaceflight, etc. It will also share technologies, enable open data access from remote sensing satellites, and promote collaborations with industry and academia on space science and applications. Furthermore, ISRO is also expected to demonstrate human spaceflight capability, develop a long-term roadmap for sustained human presence in space and make archived satellite data available for research.
- NewSpace India Limited: NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), a public sector enterprise under the Department of Space (DOS) will be responsible for commercializing space technologies and platforms, manufacturing, leasing or procuring space assets from private or public sectors, and providing space-based services to government entities or NGEs on commercial way. principles.
- Department of Space (DOS): DOS will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the space policy and ensuring the division of responsibilities outlined in the policy. It will interpret and clarify any ambiguities and ensure continuous earth observation capability and data for national requirements. Additionally, DOS will ensure maintenance of satellite constellations and ground segments for navigation signals, ensure compatibility and interoperability with other signals, etc. It will also create a mechanism to resolve disputes arising from space activities in accordance with existing laws.
The space sector has enormous untapped potential and the space policy comes at a timely moment. It promises avenues for many private players to devise innovative service offerings that have so far been in the government’s domain. These encouraging and futuristic policy measures are expected to pave the way for potential entrepreneurs in the space infrastructure market. The delineated roles and responsibilities of ISRO, IN-SPACE, NSIL, DOS etc. provide much needed regulatory clarity for the way forward. Relevantly, the space policy is also indicative of a new space law around the corner. It will be exciting to see what legislative and regulatory changes may come, and how the industry welcomes the new reforms.
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