Space Now Officially Open To Indian Private Sector

Space Now Officially Open To Indian Private Sector

The recent union cabinet meet has decided to open India’s space sector for private players and has announced a new autonomous body IN-SPACe – Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre under the Ministry of Atomic Energy and Space to encourage private players to invest in the space industry.
Complete Coverage: Private Race For Space

Crux of the Matter

IN-SPACe will be a new autonomous body formed to regulate and permit the entry of private players in the space industry. Having its own directorates for security, legal, promotion and monitoring purposes it will act as a national nodal agency for hand-holding and promoting private sector in space endeavours.

We believe that private players should play a larger role than just supplying the parts and components. India is among a handful of countries which have advanced Space technology and this can play a significant role in boosting the industrial base of the country.

K Sivan, ISRO Chief

Till now ISRO was the only player working in the space research, missions, launching, and management of the satellites but with this significant reform, private players will be allowed to launch and control the broadcast satellites and provide end to end space commercial services.

Private players can now undertake the research activities and work with ISRO in various science and interplanetary missions and also will be allowed to build rockets and satellites, provide launching services, and own satellites.

Recalibration Of NSIL
New Space India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of ISRO which had the primary responsibility of enabling Indian industries to take up high technology space-related activities now has been recalibrated to transform its approach from a supply-driven to a demand-driven model.

NSIL will take over ISRO’s responsibilities of operational launch vehicles, satellites, and commercial activities and will now handle all future technology transfer of small satellite manufacturing as well as SSLV and PSLV on behalf of ISRO.

Challenges & Role of ISRO
India barely has a barely in the global space economy which is already worth $360 billion. 95% of this market is related to satellite-based services, and ground-based systems whereas only 2% of this is for rocket and satellite launch services requiring large infrastructure and heavy investment.

Currently, the private industry involvement in India’s space sector is limited to the manufacturing and fabrication of rockets and satellites. Private players have also been unable to compete because they lack the technology to undertake independent space projects like SpaceX and have a limited role of being suppliers of components and sub-systems.

The demand for space-based applications and services is growing even within India, and ISRO is unable to cater to this. The need for satellite data, imageries, and space technology has been growing tremendously and to meet the demand ISRO would have to be expanded 10 times the current level.

With IN-SPACe focusing on private players, the ISRO Chief clarified that ISRO’s activities will not be reduced and it will continue to work on advanced research and development, interplanetary missions, human spaceflight, and capacity building in the space sector.

Industry Reactions
Space industry experts have welcomed the reforms but have also voiced out the need to handhold the new players in the initial period till they establish their own costly setups. It is seen as an excellent move which not only will unlock the full potential of the Indian space sector but also will contribute to providing employment and increasing exports.

“This will enable private players to participate in the space programme independently or in collaboration with ISRO and also enable them to access ISRO”s facilities.”

Dr Tapan Misra, Senior Advisor, ISRO & Former Director, Space Applications Centre, ISRO

An anonymous ISRO official has cautioned about the friction that will arise until the mechanisms are put in place and there is clear identification of responsibilities, resources, and manpower.

Former ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishan points out to the fact that elsewhere in the world the private industry and space-start-ups are becoming the drivers of the new space age whereas India is ridden with challenges in international marketing of strategic high technology products and services.

We should look forward to preserving the ‘soul of ISRO’ and its exceptional traits while implementing this historic and significant transition.

K. Radhakrishnan, Former ISRO Chairman
  • Late actor Sushant Singh Rajput had bought a piece of lunar land on the far side of the moon. The region that he bought is called the Mare Muscoviense or the ‘Sea of Muscovy.’ He had bought the property from the International Lunar Lands Registry.
  • The Outer Space Treaty is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law. Among the Outer Space Treaty’s main points are that it prohibits the placing of nuclear weapons in space, it limits the use of the Moon and all other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes only, and establishes that space shall be free for exploration and use by all nations, but that no nation may claim sovereignty of outer space or any celestial body.
  • Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai was an Indian physicist and astronomer who initiated space research and helped develop nuclear power in India. He is internationally regarded as the Father of the Indian Space Program.

History of Space Faring Nations – US & Russia

History of Space

Even as the number of countries with space programs has increased rapidly, US & Russia remain the space frontiers. With their hot and cold relations on earth, how far have they come in this race and how long do they go back?

Crux of the Matter

The First Race
The official space competition started between the US and USSR (Soviet Union) during the cold war period (1947 -1991) when the technological advantage was seen as necessary for national security. Mixed with the patriotism, efforts began from both sides to achieve spaceflight milestones

My rockets work perfectly, except for landing on the wrong planet.

Wernher von Braun, German Scientist

Reports suggest that Wernher von Braun, the student of the rocketing pioneer Hermann Oberth, was the public face and chief architect of the American space program, helping launch their first space satellite Explorer 1. This detached him from the consequences of his earlier work on the V-2 missile for Hitler and his continued interest in space travel. Till date his liquid-fueled engines are used as the basis for modern space travel via LOX (Liquid Oxygen).

The Vostok 1 Capsule that toured Yuri with one full orbit of Earth

During the International Geophysical Year that marked the scientific exchange between East and West, Soviet Union achieved a successful launch of the first artificial satellite in the world, with the orbiting of Sputnik 1 in 1957.

Followed by cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova becoming the first man and woman in space. Not wanting to be left behind in the race, the US made Astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon with Apollo 11. Thus the US chose the moon’s orbit to excel in while the Soviet concentrated on Earth orbitals.

The Apollo 11 marked the lunar success of NASA’s Apollo program

Efforts To Collaborate With Apollo – Soyuz
In 1962, a period of détente, which is easing of strained relations, started when POTUS John F. Kennedy and Soviet Union’s Premier Nikita Khrushchev exchanged letters about working together on simple space matters like weather satellites. The US and Russia agreed that an international space project would be a political win-win. According to historians, this idea got further highlighted with the release of Marooned, the film in which Soviet cosmonauts rescue stranded American astronauts.

Apollo-Soyuz was the first international mission, carried out jointly by the Americans and Russians in July 1975. As US Apollo module docked with a Soviet Soyuz capsule, millions of people worldwide watched on T.V, the test project wherein two nations worked together with their own spacecrafts.

Mir for Russia and Skylab for USA
was the first space station operated by the United States from 1973-1979. It spent six years orbiting Earth until its decaying orbit caused it to re-enter the atmosphere. The station had a workshop, a solar observatory, a multiple docking adapter, and systems to allow three crews to spend up to 84 days in space comfortably. It’s major operations included acting as an orbital workshop, a solar observatory, and Earth observational arena.

NASA’s Skylab

The Space Station Mir served as a microgravity research laboratory in which crews conducted experiments in biology, human biology, physics, and astronomy. It endured 15 years in orbit from 1986 to 2001, three times its planned lifetime. It outlasted the Soviet Union and was later handled by Russia.

US got concerned that with the fall of the Union, funds might get short for the Russian Space Program, and thus the Shuttle-Mir program was started. It flew several American astronauts to Mir between 1995 and 1998 and laid the groundwork for the ISS collaboration.


Formation Of Global Space Station – ISS
After an MoU between the US and Russia, the modular space station ISS was formed in 1998 with an intent to proceed with worldwide cooperation for space exploration. It was divided into two sections : Russian Orbital Segment (ROS), operated by Russian ROSCOSMOS and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), shared by NASA (US) and other nations including JAXA(Japan), CSA(Canada) and ESA (Europe).

ISS Space-environment research laboratory

Good-bye Shuttle, Hello Again Soyuz & Dragon
NASA’s Space Shuttle program was launched in 1972 with the vision of a reusable space shuttle system. True to its mission, the Shuttle became the only winged reusable shuttle to achieve orbit and landing with a crew that made multiple flights into an orbit. Russian shuttle Buran was similar in design and capabilities but it could make only one uncrewed space flight before it got scrapped.

The Space Shuttle Program, composed of an orbiter with two reusable solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank

However after spiralling costs to manage the shuttle beyond it’s envisioned 15 year span, and arising safety issues due to criticism faced for the two major disasters – Challenger and the Columbia vehicles, US retired its Space Shuttle fleet after 135 missions in 2011.

The Soyuz spacecraft was launched on a Soyuz rocket, still known for being one of the most reliable launch vehicles in space

This made Russian Soyuz rockets the only way to shuttle crew and cargo to and from the ISS, which in turn led to NASA paying ROSCOSMOS $2.5 billion+ for its space services ever since. Though in 2014, the condemnatory international reaction of the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, made the US rethink about their space cooperation with them. Later in a meeting, NASA reaffirmed its commitment to extend the station use from 2020 to at least 2024.

Finally Elon Musk’s SpaceX became a game changer for NASA in May this year, as astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley travelled to the ISS in their Dragon 2 crew spacecraft, making it the first public-corporate space collaboration to launch humans into orbit. Under this Commercial Crew Program, a NASA audit found out that the cost per seat for each astronaut was significantly lower than Soyuz, Apollo and other space programs in 60 years.

What Next?
Currently, the two nations’ have a differing role in space, where the US is helping private companies like SpaceX and Boeing to fuel the next generation of space exploration with flashy new technologies, Russia is investing in stable provision of decades-old yet reliable designs and equipment, busy finding replacements for the Soyuz program. Hopefully, the next goal for both would be Mission Mars!

  • Before humans went into space in the 1960s, several other animals were launched into space, including numerous other primates, so that scientists could investigate the biological effects of space travel. The first primate astronaut was Albert, a rhesus macaque, who on June 11, 1948, rode to over 63 km on a V-2 rocket. Albert died of suffocation during the flight.
  • The Orbital Piloted Assembly and Experiment Complex (OPSEK) was a 2009–2017 Russian proposed third-generation modular space station for Low Earth orbit. In early plans, the station was to consist initially of several modules from the Russian Orbital Segment of the International Space Station (ISS). However, in September 2017, the head of Roscosmos Igor Komarov said that the technical feasibility of separating the station to form OPSEK had been studied and there were now “no plans to separate the Russian segment from the ISS”.
  • Gravity is a 2013 science fiction thriller film starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as American astronauts who are stranded in space after the mid-orbit destruction of their Space Shuttle and attempt to return to Earth. Upon its release, Gravity was met with widespread critical acclaim, including its direction and visuals. Visual effects company Framestore spent more than three years creating most of the film’s visual effects, which make up over 80 of its 91 minutes.

Private Race For Space

The recent reforms provided in the Finance Ministry’s Stimulus Package have offered an opportunity to the private sector to enter the Space-tech field. The move has offered hopes for increased production and employment.

Crux of the Matter

The Reforms
The major reforms to increase the private sector’s role in space-tech are as follows:

  • Private companies would be allowed to use ISRO facilities.
  • Outer-space exploration made open to the private sector.
  • Tax for Maintenance, Reform, and Overhaul of Aviation revised to attract the Aviation industry to India.
  • Measures to increase private-sector’s role in Indian Space market

Expert Analysis
Dr. Tapan Mishra, a Senior Adviser to ISRO, provided an analysis of the reforms and suggested the paradigm for success in the measure:

  • Business worth ₹125,000 crores could be targeted after reforms.
  • Space sector must be divided as follows
    • Innovation: To be held by Govt as innovation would require job security, a relaxed environment, and advanced technology that the Govt provides.
    • Operation and Production: To be held by the private sector as it can employ a large number of people in production which would not require specialized labor as needed in Innovation. It would also require a business mindset to increase production which the private sector provides.
  • ISRO should initially aid industries regarding innovation in production as the private sector lacks ISRO level facilities.
  • He also suggested opening Satellite application and data research to start-ups which can work on small capital while employing highly innovative minds.
  • He also suggested the opening of Remote sensing data to citizens, which would find increased utility and would increase the scientific interest of people.

    Overall, the experts have welcome the Govt measures which would open the space-tech to market.

Space commerce is expected to grow quickly once Covid-19-related lockdowns are relaxed. These reforms will help spur the growth of Indian private space companies and increase India”s share in the global space market. It will be a real opportunity for Indian private sector considering the way defence-space is also growing now.

S. Rakesh, Chairman & Managing Director, Antrix Corporation Ltd

Can Privatization Help Expand?
If ISRO is to have a 5% share in Global Space Market – which is valued at approx. ₹25 trillion – it will be required to generate a revenue of ₹1.25 trillion. For that, the number of employees has to be around 1.25 lakh. ISRO would be unable to provide the specified amount of employment as it would inefficient and impractical for a government organization to scale up 10 times.

That gap can be filled by the private sector as it can work efficiently on production and operation with unskilled labour. Multiple private players can result in a competition that may ultimately drive quality. It would reduce the unemployment exacerbated by Coronavirus Lockdown as well.

  • Aryabhata, India’s first satellite, was launched in 1975 by a Russian Kosmos-3m rocket. It was named after Aryabhata-I, the legendary fifth-century Indian mathematician and astronomer from the Gupta Empire.
  • One of the largest beer names in the world, Budweiser also plans to maintain its dominance on Mars. In December 2019, Budweiser launched its barley seeds into space. It’s the fourth in a series of experiments meant to test how the seeds germinate in microgravity. The seeds flew aboard SpaceX’s Dragon Cargo capsule.
  • Origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding and craft is widely used in art and craft, 3D architecture and teaching mathematics. But this ancient art is also used by NASA engineers to design spacecrafts. Origami is used to pack the spacecraft in the minimum possible volume and discover various folds to make best use of space.
  • Blue Origin Federation, LLC is an American privately funded aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company headquartered in Kent, Washington. Founded in 2000 by Jeff Bezos, the company is led by CEO Bob Smith and is developing technologies to enable private human access to space with the goal to dramatically lower costs and increase reliability.

Space Veggies!

Astronauts in the International Space Station (ISS) have been successful in growing edible red romaine lettuce in space. This space-grown vegetable has been tested to be free of microbes as well, thus making it a healthier choice.

Crux of the Matter

Astronauts cultivated the red romaine lettuce with the help of Vegetable Production System called “Veggie” . The process of cultivating vegetables in space started in the year 2014. The “Veggie” is equipped with an LED lighting chamber and watering system. It takes nearly 33-56 days to grow lettuces.

The ability to grow food in a sustainable system that is safe for crew consumption will become critical as NASA moves towards longer missions. Salad-type, leafy greens can be grown and consumed fresh with few resources.

– Dr Christina Khodadad, Researcher at the Kennedy Space Center

The crew found that the composition of the space-grown lettuce was similar to earth-grown lettuce. This important achievement may completely change the course of space missions in the future. Generally, astronauts use processed and packaged food for their survival in space. But with advancements such as this, space agencies like NASA, ISRO and others can now think of longer space missions.


Vegetable Production System (Veggie)– The Vegetable Production System (Veggie) is a plant growth system developed and used by NASA in outer space environments. The purpose of Veggie is to provide a self-sufficient and sustainable food source for astronauts as well as a means of recreation and relaxation through therapeutic gardening. Veggie was designed in conjunction with ORBITEC and is currently being used aboard the International Space Station, with another Veggie module planned to be delivered to the ISS in 2017.

Blink and Miss Heavenly Events Captured by CHIME


Researchers have discovered repeating fast radio bursts (FRB) at the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIMEobservatory. The object named FRB 180916.J0158+65 has been traced back to its place of origin, a nearby spiral galaxy containing a nebula. This finding was reported in a news briefing on Monday at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Crux of the Matter
  • FRB are explosions that produce as much energy as the sun does in nearly a century, in just a few thousandths of a second. They repeat their quick-pulsing radio tune in random bursts.  
  • As per Kenzie Nimmo, a doctoral student at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, the big question had lied in what could possibly produce an FRB.
  • The bursts were eventually traced back to a dwarf galaxy with a high rate of star formation 3 billion light-years away, which contains a persistent radio source in the form of a nebula.
  • After the discovery at CHIME, Follow-up observations done by a network of telescopes in Europe allowed the research team to produce a high-resolution image of the FRB’s location. The results were published in the journal Nature.
  • Astronomers have also managed to determine how three non-repeating FRBs came from distant massive galaxies with little star formation going on. This in turn provided evidence that both repeating and non-repeating bursts arose from different types of environments.

Spiral Galaxies form a class of galaxy originally described by Edwin Hubble in his 1936 work  Most spiral galaxies consist of a flat, rotating disk containing stars, gas and dust, and a central concentration of stars known as the bulge. These are often surrounded by a much fainter halo of stars, many of which reside in globular clusters and are named as they are, due to their spiral structures that extend from the centre into the galactic disc. The spiral arms are sites of ongoing star formation and are brighter than the surrounding disc because of the young, hot OB stars that inhabit them. The Milky Way is a barred spiral, although the bar itself is difficult to observe from Earth’s current position within the galactic disc. The most convincing evidence for the stars forming a bar in the galactic centre comes from several recent surveys, including the Spitzer Space Telescope. More Info