Aditya A. Variath and Khooshi Mukhi
In 2020, the Government of India introduced significant reforms in the space domain, marking an exciting new chapter. These reforms were designed to encourage and empower new generation enterprises to actively participate in a wide range of space activities, from start to finish. The goal was to create a fair and inclusive environment that provides equal opportunities for all players involved. Building upon these reforms, the government is now focused on establishing clear and reliable regulations for space activities undertaken by various stakeholders. This will foster a vibrant and thriving space ecosystem, where innovation and collaboration can flourish.
The Indian Space Policy 2023 has been developed as a comprehensive and flexible framework that embodies the vision for reform approved by the Cabinet. It sets the stage for dynamic growth and progress in India's space sector, creating a solid foundation for the future. The Indian Space Policy 2023 (hereafter ‘ISP’) has thus been formulated as an overarching, composite and dynamic framework to implement the reform vision approved by Cabinet.
The vision of the ISP is to “augment space capabilities; enable, encourage and develop a flourishing commercial presence in space; use space as a driver of technology development and derived benefits in allied areas; pursue international relations, and create an ecosystem for effective implementation of space applications among all stakeholders; for, the nation’s socio-economic development and security, protection of environment and lives, pursuing peaceful exploration of outer space, stimulation of public awareness and scientific quest.” The ISP encourages greater private sector participation in space activities and aims to foster commercialization of the space sector Boosting private sector participation through providing a predictable regulatory framework, a single window for all aspects of authorization of space activities and provide clearly defined roles for different agencies relating to space activities in India.
The ISP mentions NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) as the primary agency for the commercialisation of space technology and platforms of ISRO. Prof. Sandeepa Bhat in his article has warned about the policy ambiguity in the role of Antrix Corporation Limited (Antrix) as the ISP is silent on the role of Antrix. Prof. Bhat writes that “It hints, though in unclear terms, the Government of India’s attempt to bury Antrix consequent to the disastrous Antrix-Devas saga, and showcase NSIL as the new commercial wing of ISRO.”
The ISP states that the “Indian National Space Promotion & Authorisation Centre (hereafter ‘IN-SPACe’) shall function as an autonomous Government organization, mandated to promote, hand-hold, guide and authorize space activities in the country”. For this purpose, IN-SPACe shall periodically issue guidelines and procedures, that would among other things promote ease of doing business. Prof. Bhat writes that “the function of promoting space activities, which is entrusted with IN-SPACe, is within the policy domain of the executive, however, granting authorization to private players and conferring power to frame guidelines and regulations are the essential functions of the legislature.”
IN-SPACe shall promote industry clusters or zones or manufacturing hubs or incubation Centres for the space sector. The policy states that “IN-SPACe shall also work with industry both national and overseas to promote identified space activities and establish India as a preferred service provider for global requirements of products/services in the space sector.” IN-SPACe will work with academia to widen the space ecosystem and enable industry-academia linkages. The policy aims to boost the economic potential and innovation through public-private partnerships of India as a space-faring nation. The ISP emphasizes that the ISRO will focus primarily on the research and development of new space technologies and applications, and on expanding the human understanding of outer space.
In the new ISP, IN-SPACe, the Department of Space (DoS) and the New Space India Limited (NSIL) cover almost all areas from regulation to promotion and governance and reflect the new bullish behaviour of the Government of India. The new policy would certainly empower and encourage private startups to develop solutions in the areas of spacetech. ISP can be read as a comprehensive futuristic document that has the potential to shape the discourse of the Indian Space program and can shape India as a global leader in space governance. While scholars have raised concerns on the definitional aspect of the ISP, the true test of the policy will be reading it along the lines of international treaty obligations. The policy will have to be backed by a Parliamentary enactment to provide an institutional regulatory framework to make the policy more effective in nature.
(Adithya Variath is an Assistant Professor of Law and Coordinator of the Centre for Research in Air and Space Law at Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai, India. Khooshi Mukhi is a Student and Research Member at the Centre for Research in Air and Space Law at Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai, India. The authors can be contacted at email@example.com.)