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India to Allow Startups, Private Firms to Build Rockets and Satellites, Provide Launch Services

A file photo of ISRO chief K Sivan.

A file photo of ISRO chief K Sivan.

ISRO chairman K Sivan said the first reform will be to enable private sector to carry out end-to-end space activities, and said this will generate large-scale enmployment.

Indian Space Research Organisation chairman K Sivan on Thursday said startups and companies will be enabled to build rockets and satellites as well as provide launch services as India looks to open up the space sector to private players.

“Private sector can provide space services, including building rockets and satellites,” he said at a briefing that was live-streamed on ISRO’s website, adding that this will put India in the league of very few countries with an efficient mechanism for private sector, leading to an improvement in access to space services.

Seeking to expand on the Union Cabinet’s decisions of Wednesday, where the government announced the setting up of a regulatory body for participation of private firms in the space sector, the ISRO chairman said private industries can also be a part of science and inter-planetary activities and projects of ISRO, besides having opportunities to undertake research and development in the sector.

While the private sector has for many years now collaborated with ISRO in supplying components and materials, the chairman said that a larger role than just that of a supplier is being envisaged with the unlocking of the sector.


“This has great opportunity for large-scale employment in the tech sector. The potential of the entire country can be utilised to scale up space technology. It will result in accelerated growth of the sector. The first reform is enabling the private sector to carry out end-to-end space activities," he said.

Leading space-faring nations such as the US and China, besides the European Space Agency, have been encouraging private companies to be part of their space programme. On May 30, history was created by SpaceX when NASA astronauts were launched into orbit by the first-ever commercially-built rocket and spacecraft.

India, however, had kept its core activities within ISRO while sourcing components for rockets and satellites from private companies. But that is all set to end.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced on May 16 that the government will open up space and atomic energy sectors to private players, levelling the playing field in space-based services.

On Wednesday, the Union Cabinet announced the formation of a new board, the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (In-SPACe), which will be an extended arm of ISRO and will be in charge of promoting and guiding space activities of the private industries.

While In-SPACe will have representatives from industry, academia and the government, the focus will be on ease of doing space business. ISRO will share its technical expertise as well as facilities wherever feasible.

Though it may take about three to six months for the Centre to become operational, private companies can start sending their proposals to the space agency.

first published:June 25, 2020, 11:51 IST