One leg up for space | The Indian Express

Although India started early on a space program and has built impressive capabilities over the decades despite great adversity, it is lagging behind in realizing its full potential. The crux of the problem is the fact that the program remains a state company. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has left larger and larger parts of the space program to the private sector. India was no exception to state monopolies in the space sector in the 20th century. The sophisticated nature of the technologies involved, the military implications, and the associated international prestige led the state to lead the space sector worldwide. In India, the development imperative added another justification for state control. But to continue with this framework in the 21st century is a losing project.

As space technologies find an increasing number of commercial applications, the size of the global space economy has grown rapidly. It’s valued at around $ 450 billion and is expected to grow to $ 1.4 trillion by the end of this decade. India today has barely a 2 percent share in global space trade. The only way Delhi can add India’s weight in the world economy is to end the space ministry’s monopoly. Although the NDA government announced some reforms to boost private sector activities in 2020, the Space Department and its agencies continue to exercise paternalistic scrutiny. India needs space legislation that provides a sustainable framework for space trade, even if critics say government-scrutinized space law does not go far enough.

The longer Delhi takes to put in place a reasonable regulatory framework, the more difficult it will be for India to keep up with the rapidly changing economic dynamics in space. Take telecommunications, for example, an area where space technologies were used early on for commercial purposes. A number of Western companies are planning to launch hundreds of near-earth satellites to provide broadband internet worldwide. Beijing has plans for a Space Silk Road. New economic activities arise – from innovative applications of space-based earth observation to the manufacture of special products in gravity-free environments, space tourism and the possible dismantling of the moon and other celestial bodies. The increasing commercial use of space is characterized by a greater involvement of private actors. The longstanding state monopoly on rocket launches was finally broken by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. It is now time for Delhi to commission state space agencies to focus on basic research while allowing the private sector to take the lead in all activities related to the space business.