The Covid-19 pandemic showed that investment in space technology can pay off in unimagined ways as governments across the world deployed geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing technology on navigation satellites to combat the coronavirus spread.
It is no surprise then the space tech sector found a mention in the government’s annual economic survey (2020-21) released on Friday. “There are more than 40 startups working in India with funding, teams and structure on space and satellite projects complimenting the efforts of the government. This number is likely to increase in coming years with technology to play a big role,” the survey said.
It however highlighted that despite India spending about $1.8 Bn on space programmes in 2019-20, the country still lags behind other major countries in the sector. While India has launched around 5-7 satellites per year in recent years, US, China and Russia dominated this area with 19, 25 and 34 satellite launches respectively in 2019.
“The Indian space ecosystem is undergoing several policy reforms to engage private players and attract innovation and investment… The recent reforms announced by the government of India for unlocking the space potential of India stresses the need to enable the private industry to be the co-traveller in India’s space journey,” the survey added.
Policy Gives Spacetech Startups A Fillip
It also said that with the long term vision of making the country self-reliant and technologically advanced, the government opened up the space sector in June 2020 to enable the participation of the Indian private sector in the entire gamut of space activities. Moreover, New Space India Limited (NSIL), a public sector enterprise under Department of Space has been mandated to transfer the technologies from the Indian space programme and enable industry to scale up its high-technology manufacturing base.
The government has also established Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) in August last year for promoting industries and attracting investment in the space sector. “Further, ISRO would be sharing its infrastructure, transfer technology know-how for production and spin-off. These measures would help India become a manufacturing hub of space assets,” the survey added.
IN-SPACe has been tasked with examining the extent to which private players can contribute to the space sector, across a range of functions such as establishing ground stations to satellite constellations, to specialised sensors and devices to providing applications and services for spacetech operations. A host of Indian as well as foreign companies, both big firms and nascent startups, have sought IN-SPACe’s permission for moving into the sector.
Besides startups such as Bengaluru-headquartered Pixxel, Kawa Space, SkyRoot, Digantara, Agnikul and others, even international companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are eyeing the Indian spacetech market for their services and space launches.