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Private sector can now build rockets, provide launch services: ISRO chief K Sivan

To facilitate the private sector presence in ISRO, the agency has launched the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre, an independent nodal agency.

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Bengaluru: Private players will now be allowed to build facilities and work within the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO’s) premises, the space agency’s chairperson K. Sivan said in an address to the nation Thursday morning.

Sivan announced in detail, reforms intended for the space sector, which were approved by the Cabinet Wednesday. The prime change, the ISRO chief said, is that the private sector will no longer be confined to just supplying components but will now be able to build and launch satellites and rockets, provide launch services, perform intensive research and developmental activities, participate in ISRO’s science and planetary missions, and offer space services commercially.

To facilitate the private sector presence in ISRO, the agency has launched the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), an independent nodal agency, Sivan said.

“The agency will ensure safety, security, and quality, engage in monitoring space business activity, enable ease of business at low cost for private players, ensure permission and authorisation of private activities,” he said. “It will also act as a nodal agency for hand-holding and promoting private sector in space endeavours, aiding ISRO to share technical expertise and facilities.”

IN-SPACe will operate autonomously under the Department of Space, and its board will have representation from THE industry, academia and central government, Sivan added.

In Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, the Minister of State for Atomic Energy and Space, Jitendra Singh, said the space commission will add new members and the Department of Space will have new posts created, as members are appointed to IN-SPACe.

More space reforms in the future

There will be more space policy reforms to enable a fair and equitable playing field for private players, Sivan said. He added that although IN-SPACe will be operational only in 3-6 months, private companies can apply for use of ISRO facilities and knowledge transfer beginning immediately through the Department of Space website. Many startups have already approached ISRO and their requests are being processed, he said.

An additional reform that was announced was the recalibration of the role of NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the new arm of ISRO that was set up last year with the objective of enabling industry participation in space, primarily in launch vehicle construction.

It will now function on a “demand-driven model” instead of a “supply-driven model”, said Sivan, echoing Singh in the Cabinet on Wednesday. Sivan explained that NSIL will now take over the functioning of operational launch vehicles, satellites, commercial applications, and more, while executing its duties through “industrial consortiums.”

NSIL will also undertake technology transfer activities, he added.

Sivan also said that the new structural reforms will not reduce the activities of ISRO, which will continue to engage in advanced R&D, planetary missions, human spaceflight, and capacity-building. ISRO will fully support the private sector, he said, saying that more details on the way forward will be announced in a week after an industry promotion meet with stakeholders.

Opening up ISRO’s facilities and knowledge to the private sector will enable the country to transition to a new space era, spurring innovation from the youth, said Sivan. It will result in an accelerated growth of the space sector and its benefits, and will enable industry to be an important player in global space economics, he said.

Also read: Why Indian space start-ups are feeling forced to set up base abroad



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