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Modi launches Indian Space Association, plan is to open up sector to start-ups & private firms

ISpA will support start-ups, and will work towards facilitating and enabling private players to work in tandem with ISRO, PM Modi said at the virtual event.

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Bengaluru: Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Indian Space Association (ISpA) at a virtual event Monday. Representatives from the space industry were also present at the launch.

The industry association will act as an independent and “single-window” agency for enabling the opening up of the space sector to start-ups and the private sector, the PM said.

He promised upcoming space reforms via IsPA, based on “four pillars” of space technology: The freedom to innovate in the private sector; making the government act as an enabler; preparing the next generation for the future of the space industry; and ensuring the space sector is used as a common resource for the progress of humanity. 

ISpA will perform the role of policy advocacy and engage with stakeholders in the space sector, including the government and all its other agencies, NewSpace India Ltd (NSIL) and Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), among others. 

“These reforms will provide opportunities for both industry and academia,” Modi said in a short presentation.

The expected reforms are supposed to enable and promote private players to carry out independent space activities, facilitate services and technology created by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to be utilised by the private sector, provide regulatory and policy inputs, and inspire and promote an conducive ecosystem for start-ups, MSMEs, and academia.

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What ISpA will do

The industry association was created following Modi’s meeting with industry insiders in December 2020, after which the government proposed a platform for private players to raise their concerns and aspirations. 

ISpA will be focussed on capacity building and creation of space hubs as well as incubators in the country for private space start-ups. It will work in tandem with NSIL, a central public sector enterprise under the Department of Space (DOS), which functions as the commercial arm for ISRO and secures launch contracts from customer satellites. The association will also work with IN-SPACe, which acts as a regulator facilitating the use of government facilities to private companies.

Lt Gen. A.K. Bhatt (retd) will function as the director general while Jayant Patil, senior executive vice president, defence, L&T-NxT, will serve as chairperson.

“We at ISpA aspire to fulfil our prime minister’s vision of a technologically-enabled Aatmanirbhar Bharat,” Bhatt said at the launch event.

The move follows many years of pressure from the private sector and international players on the government to create an enabling ecosystem in India for private space industry.

Signals govt’s seriousness, companies say on agency launch

ISpA’s founding member companies include OneWeb, Bharti Airtel, Mapmyindia, Walchandnagar Industries, L&T, ADTL, and Ananth Technologies Ltd, which have been heavily involved in supporting ISRO with launches and development. 

The first few start-ups to become members include Astrome Technologies, Pixxel, Agnikul Cosmos, Digantra, and Skyroot Aerospace. Representatives from the companies welcomed the formation of the association at the launch event.

“The hopes of the private space industry in India are to build profitable and sustainable businesses serving the world,” Astrome Technologies Co-Founder and Chief Executive Neha Satak told ThePrint at the launch.

“My personal vision is for India to become the destination for space products and technology. We have the brains, we have the legacy and most importantly we have the will for it,” she said.

Pixxel Founder and CEO Awais Ahmed noted that the PM’s decision to take the time out to launch the agency “signals the seriousness of the government in catalysing this space”. 

“And this intent has also been seen in the way we have continued to engage with the chairman of ISRO, DOS and the newly-formed IN-SPACe. We have a lot of actual implementation yet to do to actually achieve the vision of India being a global private space powerhouse, but as long as ISpA and the space companies continue to engage proactively with the government, we are on the right path,” Ahmed said.

“The fact that large companies, MSMEs and start-ups alike get to share their views and suggestions indicates a balanced regulatory regime being set in motion,” he added.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

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