By Vikrant Rana and Pranit Biswas
‘Space: the final frontier’….’to boldly go where no man has gone before’
– Star Trek
Indian Space Association (ISpA)
The realm of space is one which has fascinated mankind for time immemorial. From great historical scientists like Copernicus and Galileo to modern ones like Elon Musk, space has been a frontier which has bedazzled millions! While over the last few decades, from the first ascent of humans (Yuri Gagarin) into space to the Mars Rover mission, the world governments (especially the Americans and the Russians) have been at the forefront of space related research and development. When one thinks of space, terms like NASA and ISRO are the ones which come to mind. However, in the last few years, private players like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, have pushed themselves into contention to be considered as the modern pioneers of space. This ‘private’ incursion to space is perhaps the next small step which will turn out to be a giant leap for mankind. Keeping this in mind, the recent news of the formation of the Indian Space Association (ISpA), is one which has the potential to elevate India to the status of a space superpower!
On the 11th of October 2021, the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, announced the launch of the Indian Space Association which is set to act as the cumulative voice of the Indian Space Industry – involving all stakeholders. The nexus sought through the same as stated by PM Modi is to reform the current Space Industry in India based on four pillars, “The freedom of innovation to the private sector, the role of the government as an enabler, preparing the youth for the future, and lastly, seeing the space sector as a resource for the progress of the common man.”
INCLUSION OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND START-UPS
Through the launch of the Indian Space Association, the government is aiming at a more active inclusion of private sector entities and start-ups with respect to India’s involvement in Space. This is a step away from the present scenario where the governance and control over Space was solely vested with the Union, with ISRO being the face of the Indian endeavors into space. During the launch, it was emphasized that the ISpA would closely work with and support all players who wish to enter the realm of Space and Technology while collaborating with ISRO to facilitate the same. It has been reported that the founders of the ISpA include titans of Indian businesses such as Airtel, Larson & Toubro (L&T), Tata Group, etc. Companies with vast pools of finds as well as brilliant minds such as these ones certainly have the potential to realize one of the main aims of ISpA – “Working towards building global linkages for the Indian space industry while bringing in critical technology and investments into the country to create more high skill jobs.”
The ISpA aims at the promotion and representation of homegrown corporations, and a smooth integration of private parties in the realm of space. As witnessed in the recent past, private sector entities in the United Kingdom such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX or Jeff Bezos Blue Origin in USA, have opened the gates to what seem like promising strides in the involvement of the Private Sector in the Space Industry. Through collaboration with front runners in the Industry such as of course NASA and the European Space Agency, the scope for expansion of this industry has definitely been brought to the forefront. The promise of a concept such as a ‘tourist flight to space’ for example, might have been unimaginable without the same. Not only does this amount to a massive influx of funds, it also motivates and opens up a vast pool of some of the best minds in the world, to actively participate in space-related endeavors, knowing that their work and ingenuity would be recognized and supported by the government. This new chapter in the history of India’s forays into space, may perhaps one day see Indian entrepreneurs spawning their own equivalents of SpaceX!
The launch of the Indian Space Association may be India’s opportunity to similarly align itself with its foreign counterparts. The Indian Private Sector can greatly expand its footprint in Space, leading to increased accessibility. Whilst India has definitely made some immense strides in recent years through ISRO and its world-famous satellites, this may be an opportunity to shift focus towards those entities who also have a keen interest in the same, but in the past lacked governmental support and recognition.
It is hoped that the ISpA would be responsible for a paradigm shift in India’s vision towards space. The addition of private parties to what was earlier only a government-only territory, should hypothetically lead to immense growth and development of India’s space footprint.