Knowledge Resource >
Space Policy 2023- Indian Private Sector’s Guide to the Galaxy
In 2020, the Government announced structural reforms to boost private participation in space activities and a promise to provide a predictable policy and regulatory framework. The Government has now released the Indian Space Policy – 2023, albeit after a lapse of almost three years. The Policy aims to promote a friendly regulatory environment for the encouragement of private participation in end-to-end space activities.
With the introduction of this Policy, Indian consumers of space technology or services (such as communication, remote sensing, data services, launch services, and so on) are free to procure such services from any private or public source.
The policy defines the private participants as non-Governmental entities (NGE), who are now allowed to offer space-based communication services, both within and outside India. This includes establishing and operating space objects and ground-based assets; providing related services such as communication, remote sensing, and navigation; establishing and operating space transportation systems; undertaking research, innovation and technology development for the long-term sustainability of space activities; establishing and operating launching infrastructure and, interestingly, acquiring orbital, asteroid or space resources, amongst others.
The above activities will be subject to authorization from the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), the autonomous nodal agency under the Department of Space, which is tasked with the responsibility to promote private participation, define framework for developing space industry standards, promote India as a preferred space service provider, provide facilities, establish standards, registration and other necessary clearances for space objects intended to be launched and balance the interests of the Government and the NGEs, among others.
The Policy also defines and demarcates the other participants and their roles in the space ecosystem.
- Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), while continuing to focus on research and development of new space technologies and applications, is additionally tasked with the responsibility to liaise with NGEs and Government companies to share technologies, products, processes, and best practices and enable open data access from remote sensing satellites of ISRO in accordance with the conditions prescribed under law.
- New Space India (NSIL), being ISRO’s commercial arm, will be responsible for commercializing space technologies and platforms created from public expenditure, manufacturing/ leasing/ procuring space-related assets and servicing the space-based needs of users.
- Department of Space (DoS) will continue to be the top regulation body that shall also be responsible for administering the policy.
The Policy is a welcome move and the Indian space sector is already moving ahead. However, the regulatory certainty essential to minimize the barriers for the private players in this sector and to ensure efficient synergies between the regulators and NGEs, demands an accelerated pace. It has taken three years for the Policy to be announced since the structural reforms of 2020.
The Policy, while setting out the functions of IN-SPACe, which is mandated to “promote, handhold, guide and authorize space activities”, has provided for various aspects where IN-SPACe is to define or establish guidelines. For instance, IN-SPACe is required to:
- Define framework for developing space industry standards, based on global benchmarks.
- Identify technologies developed by ISRO that are ready for transfer to NGEs and facilitate such transfer.
- Issue guidelines for meeting safety and security requirements for space objects.
- Share best practices with private entities for enabling the technology ecosystem.
- Prescribe guidelines to address liability aspects arising out of potential damage due to space activities.
- Prescribe the conditions under which authorisations accorded may be reviewed, revoked or modified by IN-SPACe.
These are aspects that require clarity and certainty within the coming months, and not years, for effective and efficient private participation. Since the 2020 announcement, private participation has already seen an increase. The number of registered users with IN-SPACe is now 1387. The number of applications filed with IN-SPACe as on May 15, 2023, however, is 285, of which only 10 are nearing closure.
The private entities require incentives to maximise their operations. The Policy mandates IN-SPACe to develop and launch promotional schemes from time to time, enable establishment of specialized technical facilities by NGEs within the premises of DoS, enable easy access for NGEs to space-based remote sensing data collected through public expenditure, formulate procedures to ensure a playing field for the utilisation of facilities created using public expenditure, by prioritizing their use among Government entities and NGEs and identify potential opportunities for the private sector.
IN-SPACe must accelerate the implementation of the Policy. Space is a capital-intensive sector with unlimited dimensions. An efficient implementation of the Policy would facilitate attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) by private entities. The extant FDI policy provides for FDI up to 100% only for satellite establishment and operation and that too is subject to the sectoral guidelines of DoS / ISRO. It is understood that a new Space FDI Policy is in its final stages and is expected to be announced in the coming months. The new policy will allow 100% FDI in three space activities – satellite establishment and operations; launch vehicle operation and manufacturing; and sub-system manufacturing. Additionally, some level of investment is expected to be permitted under the automatic route and the thresholds for the same are still under consideration.
In the words of the Chinese philosopher, Zhuangzi, a path is made by walking on it. India has already started walking the path of creating a robust space infrastructure and supplier ecosystem and with a timely impetus, the unlimited opportunities promised by space are for India to seize.
Ameeta Verma Duggal , Founding Partner, DGS Associates and
Aditi Warrier, Senior Associate, DGS Associates