Space tech start-ups are lauding the Indian Space Policy 2023 for providing necessary flexibility for boosting private players in the segment, removing "bureaucratic hurdles" by making the Indian Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) the regulatory authority for the space sector, and clearly demarcating the responsibilities between various bodies under the Department of Space.
The Indian Space Policy was released on April 20 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), more than a week after the Cabinet approved it.
In it, the government specifically lays down the role of several government bodies, such as the ISRO and the Department of Space, NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) apart from specifying the role non-governmental entities (NGEs) — a term for private players in the space sector — will play in India’s space ecosystem.
"The clarity of various roles in the Indian Space Policy 2023 marks a yellow-brick road for Indian private companies who not only wish to commercialise their products and to develop new technologies, but to also understand the kind of support that will be provided to them," said Kranthi Chand, Head - Strategy & Special Projects, Dhruva Space.
Chand said he was pleased to see the policy clarifying that bodies such as DoS, ISRO, NSIL, and IN-SPACe would not be just supporting innovation and working closely with private Indian Space entities, but also stepping in to address risks when necessary.
"By underpinning the Indian Space Policy 2023 with such a set of principles, we hope this will drive consistency across private Indian Space entities while also providing them with the flexibility needed," Chand added.
The point of 'flexibility' in the policy was also reiterated by Pawan Kumar Chandana, the CEO of Skyroot Aerospace, which last year became the first Indian private rocket to launch into space.
"Indian Space Policy 2023 is crisp and flexible at the same time, addressing all needs of startups which are a key beneficiary to the new policy. The policy gives wings to startups across the space value chain to carry out end-to-end activities, with handholding of INSPACe and ISRO," he said.
"This regulatory polish is a huge opportunity for the growth of Indian startups, which will contribute significantly to India’s future share in the global space market," Chandana said.
Clarity on IN-Space's mandate
Established in 2020, In-SPACE is a single-window autonomous agency under the Department of Space. Although it has turned out to be crucial for space tech start-up players in all things related to permissions, integrations, launches and so on, industry players have often highlighted the lack of a legislative mandate of IN-SPACe.
The Indian Space Policy 2023 details IN-SPACe's responsibilities much to the relief of private players in the industry.
Awais Ahmed, CEO of Bengaluru-based space tech start-up Pixxel said, "The policy clearly establishes IN-SPACe as the regulatory authority for the nation’s space sector. This development addresses previous concerns of bureaucratic hurdles and simplifies the process for startups and private entities interested in venturing into the space domain. "
"The policy clearly defines the role of IN-SPACe, as a single-window agency for the authorisation of Space activities by government entities as well as NGEs. With this policy clarity, we are confident that IN-SPACe and Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will work speedily to ensure necessary clearances for private players in India,"Lt. Gen. AK Bhatt (Retd.), Director General, Indian Space Association, said adding that the industry is next hoping for the FDI policy on space to be promulgated soon.
In what is being welcomed by stakeholders in the space industry, the policy states the nation’s premier space organisation’s primary focus would be on research and development of new space technologies and applications.
"This regulatory shift will also have a positive impact on ISRO... This will enable the organization to concentrate on groundbreaking innovations, deep space exploration, and fostering advanced technologies, all of which will contribute to India’s status as a formidable player in the global space arena," Ahmed said in a statement.