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Economic Survey 2021-22: More than 100 startups working in India's space sector

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New Delhi, Jan 31: India's space regulator has received close to 40 proposals from the private sector and academia for activities ranging from manufacturing of launch vehicles and satellites to earth observation applications, the Economic Survey said on Monday.

100 startups working in Indias space sector

The Economic Survey 2021-22, presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament, said with the recently undertaken policy initiatives and private sector participation, the Indian space sector is expected to capture a larger share of the global space economy, which was close to USD 447 billion in 2020.

At present, India accounts for only about two per cent of the space economy, much behind the major players - the US and China. It said more than 100 start-ups were working in the space sector, with 47 start-ups registering with the government in 2021 itself.

President Ram Nath Kovind also acknowledged the achievements in the space sector in his address to the joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament.

"Space sector has now been opened up for private sector, providing a horizon of endless possibilities. The formation of IN-SPACE last year is one such important step to enhance India's space capabilities," Kovind said.

In June 2020, the government opened up the space sector to allow participation of private firms in the entire gamut of space activities. As part of these reforms, the government set up New Space India Limited (NSIL), the country's first public sector undertaking in the space sector, and Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), as the promoter and regulator of space activities in India by non-government and private entities.

The changes in the space sector have now created a demand-driven model wherein the NSIL acts as aggregator of user requirements and obtain commitments.

"The first outcome in this regard came recently to the fore with Tata Sky signing an MoU with NSIL for utilizing the capacity on board the upcoming communication satellite GSAT-24, to be built by ISRO and launched by Arianespace," the survey noted.

It also noted that five private satellites have been tested at ISRO facilities, and four student satellites were launched aboard the PSLV C-51.

"A total of six MoUs have also been signed with private/academic entities for sharing technical expertise and facilities," the survey said.

Across the globe, the trend of space activities is in a state of transition, the survey noted and said from being primarily a government-driven activity, the sector has been witnessing increasing participation of private sector - not only in the traditional vendor role but also in taking up end-to-end space activities.

"With this in mind, the government undertook reforms in space sector in 2020, which envisage the private sector to act as a co-traveller in the exploration of outer space and also in providing space-based services," it said. As a part of these reforms, the first step taken was empowering NSIL to "own" the operational launch vehicles and space assets of ISRO.

Further, the present supply-based model was changed to demand-driven model, wherein NSIL shall act as aggregator of user requirements and obtain commitments. The second important step was the creation of IN-SPACe which will act as the promotor and regulator of space activities in India by NGPEs (Non-government/private entities), the survey noted.

This body has been tasked with prioritising the launch manifest as per the requirements of NSIL, ISRO and NGPEs. It shall also allow utilization of capital intensive DOS-owned facilities at reasonable cost by the private sector, it said.

Another vital step, the survey said, has been in providing a predictable, forward-looking, well defined and enabling regulatory regime for space activities in the country. The first to be updated were the SpaceCom and SpaceRS policies, further liberalizing the traditional Satellite Communication and Remote Sensing sectors, respectively, thus enabling entrepreneurs and industries to take up end-to-end activities in these domains, it said.

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