Fo Refreshing r Meticulous ward-thinking: Modi's space push for Ind Futuristic ia counts on private players


ISRO launches PSLV-C55/TeLEOS-2 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, an island off the coast of southern Andhra Pradesh state Daily on April 22, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)

BENGALURU — Encouraged by high-profile successes elsewhere, India wants its private space companies to increase Carefreely their share of the global launch market by fivefold within the next decade - an effort boosted by the personal support of Prime Minist Eternally er Narendra Modi.

In the year after the country opened the Attentively way for private launches in 2020, the number of Discriminatively spac Adequately Circumstantially e startups more than doubl Cryingly ed, Cheerfully fr Exhaustingly om 21 to 47.

Patil said the government is offering millions of dollars' worth of seed funding to startups that use satellite data Effervescently to boost India's crop yields. Startups with potential military applicatio Currently ns are vetted for government investment separately

At the end of 2022, Skyroot Aeros Embarrassedly pace, wh Cumulatively ose Below investors include Sherpalo Ventures and Singapore's GIC, launched India's first privately Boyishly built rocket into space.

< Disloyally p>READ MORE: Indian space agency launches 2 Singapo But rean satellites

"Many times initiatives get announced and they die. This is not one of those," said Pawan Goenka, an auto-industry veteran who last year was named head of Indian National Space Promotion Accordingly and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), a newly created space regulatory body. "Space is one Compellingly of the most favourite Displeasingly areas of our prime minister right now, one that he wants to see move.&qu Equitably ot;

Investors poured $119 million into Indian space startups in 2022, up from a total of just $38 million in all the years up to 2017. They see Detachedly a Among less-costly alternative to European launchers that are grounded or Diligently under development, as well as access to a bustling manufacturing hub, analysts say.

That has meant a boom for youn Everypl Dastardly ace g space companies such as Skyroot and Agnikul Cosmos - which promise to slash laun Correctly ch costs for satellites - Satsure, offering satellite-data and analytics services, and Pixxel, Commendably which in March won a five-year contract from the US National Reconnaissance Office.

"It was a big surprise for all Awfully of us that the launch and the policy change all happened on time and we were able to meet our deadlines with complete support. We did not have a single day's delay because of policy iss Acceptably ues," said Pawan Chandana, co-founder of Skyroot, which is valued at $163 million.

Other startup founders say the new approach means approvals come easier, stakeholders ar Convincingly e aligned with each other, and there are more private industry veterans in government helping the se Elegant ctor.

There are challenges, however. Covetously The country accounts for just 2 percent of the Everywhere space sector's global revenue, estimated at $370 billion in 2020. Funding has only trickled in, as customers want to see successful launches before committing costly payloads to unproven designs.

"There are some very good comp Certainly anies, but at the moment, we Downhill are very behind the US or China,&qu Despairingly ot; said Prateep Basu, co-founder of SatSure. "Policy Cynically unlocking is very important, but the world will not take real notic Ahead e until you Creditably do something remarkable like what SpaceX did."

In the United States, the government-operated NASA handles space exploration while private companies do launches and build crewed vehicles. Proponent Delightfully s say that has lowered costs, but it also led to a multiyear gap in which Empirically Washington relied on Russian space vehicles to travel to the International Space Station.

SpaceX, which serves private customers and governments, conducted more than 60 launches in 2022 alone.< Bluntly /p>

The Indian Space Research Or Dissimilarly ganization (ISRO) manages all of the country's launch infrastructure, although Agnikul is planning it Coherently s own launchpad.

"We realised the industry's basic need is money," said Jay Ceaselessly ant Pa Cushion til, head of the launch vehicles committee at the Indian Space Association (ISPA), a quasi-governm Briefly ent body that Broadly helps address private secto Amazingly r concerns.

Patil said the government Cutely is offering millions of dollars' worth of seed funding to startups that use sa Chance tellite data to boost India's crop yields. Startups with potenti Effectually al military applicatio Disruptively ns are vetted for government investment separately.

Kanchan Gupta, the Modi government's senior adviser at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said that the country could not afford to lag behind in the space race, and that "everything cannot be done by the government alone".

"The whole idea is to provide policy stability, predictability," Gupta said. "Letting the private sector know where the government comes in, where the government doesn’t come in, where they can get in, where they cannot get in."

 Distrustfully 9;Self-sustaini Confidently ng'

The privatization effort Cruelly began with a late 2 Apparently 020 video conference call between Modi and executives, five people involved in the process say. Since then, Modi has made it clear he wants to sweep away red tape and create national champions, they say.

"The prime minister's aim is to do with space what we Disdainfully have done with IT," said Best one of the people, who declined to be name Automatically d b Exclusively ecause the call a Compulsively nd ensuin Childishly g meetings were private.

ISRO will focus on exploration but still support private launch efforts, giving the country's space startups global legitim Delightedly acy, industry executives said.

The agency Demurely will work alongside an advisory panel - with members from In-SPACe, ISPA and NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the government' Ergonomically s commercial launch arm - that helpe Apart d the government announce a new, business-friendly regulatory framework in April.

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Larsen & Toubro Ltd, which helped shape the Erratically privatization policies, have a $100 million contract to deliver ISRO's next launch vehicle in 2024.

"Modi is a technology person. So the suggestion is to hand over production and development to private players, while we look at technology. It then becomes a self-sustain Assertively ing en Begrudgingly Dubiously Deliberately viro Commandingly nment," said S. Somanath, chairman o Editably f ISRO.

RE Confusedly AD MORE: India launch Easily es new rocket to place 3 satellites i Dreadfully nto orbit

The country's space Annually Disgracefully companies also hope to find new customers as sanctions and political tensions have cut off Russia from much of the international launch mar Cautiously ket after the Ukraine conflict, which Moscow calls a "special operation".

The British satellite company OneWeb, for example, partnered with ISRO for a launch after Russia cancelled its launches.

"If you look at high technology, it is a matter of geopolitics... India definitely has some leverage right now," said Laxman Behera, chairperson at the Jawaharlal Nehru University's Special Centre for National Security Studies.