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Home » EXPANDING INDIA’S SHARE IN GLOBAL SPACE ECONOMY

EXPANDING INDIA’S SHARE IN GLOBAL SPACE ECONOMY

  •  From a modest beginning in the 1960s, India’s space programme has grown steadily, achieving significant milestones. These include fabrication of satellites, space-launch vehicles, and a range of associated capabilities.
  • Today, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s annual budget has crossed Rs. 10,000 crore ($1.45 billion), growing steadily from Rs. 6,000 crore five years ago. However, demand for space-based services in India is far greater than what ISRO can supply.
  • Private sector investment is critical, for which a suitable policy environment needs to be created. There is growing realisation that national legislation is needed to ensure overall growth of the space sector.
  • The draft Space Activities Bill introduced in 2017 has lapsed and the government now has an opportunity to give priority to a new Bill that can be welcomed by the private sector, both the larger players and the start-ups alike.

ISRO’S THRUST AREAS:

  • Since its establishment in 1969, ISRO has been guided by a set of mission and vision statements covering both the societal objectives and the thrust areas. The first area was of satellite communication, with INSAT and GSAT as the backbones, to address the national needs for telecommunication, broadcasting and broadband infrastructure.
  • Gradually, bigger satellites have been built carrying a larger array of transponders. About 200 transponders on Indian satellites provide services linked to areas like telecommunication, telemedicine, television, broadband, radio, disaster management and search and rescue services.
  • A second area of focus was earth observation and using space-based imagery for a slew of national demands, ranging from weather forecasting, disaster management and national resource mapping and planning. These resources cover agriculture and watershed, land resource, and forestry managements. With higher resolution and precise positioning, Geographical Information Systems’ applications today cover all aspects of rural and urban development and planning.
  • A third and more recent focus area is satellite-aided navigation. The GPS-aided GEO augmented navigation (GAGAN), a joint project between ISRO and Airports Authority of India, augmented the GPS coverage of the region, improving the accuracy and integrity, primarily for civil aviation applications and better air traffic management over Indian airspace. This was followed up with the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), a system based on seven satellites in geostationary and geosynchronous orbits. It provides accurate positioning service, covering a region extending to 1,500 km beyond Indian borders, with an accuracy greater than 20 metres; higher accuracy positioning is available to the security agencies for their use. In 2016, the system was renamed NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation).
  • With growing confidence, ISRO has also started to undertake more ambitious space science and exploration missions. The most notable of these have been the Chandrayaan and the Mangalyaan missions, with a manned space mission, Gaganyaan, planned for its first test flight in 2021. These missions are not just for technology demonstration but also for expanding the frontiers of knowledge in space sciences.

THE VITAL ROLE OF LAUNCH VEHICLES:

  • None of the endeavours would have been possible without mastering the launch-vehicle technology. Beginning with the Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) and the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV), ISRO has developed and refined the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) as its workhorse for placing satellites in low earth and sun synchronous orbits. With 46 successful missions, the PSLV has an enviable record.
  • The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) programme is still developing with its Mk III variant, having undertaken three missions, and is capable of carrying a 3.5 MT payload into a geostationary orbit.

AVENUES AND PROSPECTS OF THE SPACE PROGRAMME:

  • Developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data analytics has led to the emergence of ‘New Space’ — a disruptive dynamic based on using end-to-end efficiency concepts. The

 

New Space start-ups discern a synergy with government’s flagship programmes like Digital India, Start-Up India, Skill India and schemes like Smart Cities Mission. They see a role as a data-app builder between the data seller (ISRO/Antrix) and the end user, taking advantage of the talent pool, innovation competence and technology know-how. They need an enabling ecosystem, a culture of accelerators, incubators, Venture Capitalists and mentors.

  • Equally, clear rules and regulations are essential. ISRO can learn from its 1997 SatCom policy which neither attracted any FDI in the sector nor a single licensee. A similar situation exists with the Remote Sensing Data Policy of 2001, amended in 2011, which too has failed to attract a single application. The 2017 draft Bill raised more questions because it sought to retain the dominant role of ISRO/Antrix as operator, licensor, rule-maker and service provider.
  • Another revolution under way is the small satellite revolution. ISRO is developing a small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV) expected to be ready in 2019. It is a prime candidate, along with the proven PSLV, to be farmed out to the private sector.
  • Years ago, ISRO launched the idea of Village Resource Centres to work in collaboration with local panchayats and NGOs but only 460 pilots have begun. Expanding this for rural areas is a formidable challenge but has the potential to transform rural India if properly conceived as a part of the India Stack and the Jan Dhan Yojana.
  • With the Ministry of Defence now setting up a Defence Space Agency and a Defence Space Research Organisation, ISRO should actively embrace an exclusively civilian identity. A new Space law for India should aim at facilitating growing India’s share of global space economy to 10% within a decade which requires a new kind of partnership between ISRO, the established private sector and the New Space entrepreneurs.

PREVIOUS YEARS UPSC MAINS QUESTIONS:

  • Discuss the work of ‘Bose-Einstein Statistics’ done by prof. Satyendra Nath Bose and show how it revolutionized the field of physics. (2018)
  • With growing energy needs should India keep on extending its nuclear energy programme? Discuss the facts and fears associated with nuclear energy. (2018)
  • India has achieved remarkable successes in unmanned space missions including the Chandrayaan and Mars Orbitter Mission, but has not ventured into manned space missions. What are the main obstacles to launching a manned space mission, both in terms of technology and logistics? Examine critically. (2017)
  • Discuss India’s achievements in the field of Space Science and Technology. How the application of this technology has helped India in its socio-economic development? (2016)
  • Why is nanotechnology one of the key technologies of the 21st century? Describe the salient features of Indian Government’s Mission on Nanoscience and Technology and the scope of its application in the development process of the country. (2016)
  • What do you understand by “Standard Positioning System” and “Precision positioning system” in the GPS era? Discuss the advantage India perceives from its ambitious IRNSS programme employing just seven satellites. (2015)
  • What are the areas of prohibitive labour that can be sustainably managed by robots? Discuss the initiatives that can propel the research in premier research institutes for substantive and gainful innovation. (2015)
  • In a globalized world, Intellectual Property Rights assume significance and are a source of litigation. Broadly distinguish between the terms—Copyrights, Patents and Trade Secrets. (2014)