Had we not been so engrossed by the covid-19 pandemic and Chinese transgressions in the Himalayas, the Narendra Modi government’s deregulation of the space sector would have stood out as a structural, big-bang reform. You don’t have to be a breathless cheerleader of the government to appreciate, without exaggeration, that this is the most significant development in the sector since the formation of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) half a century ago.
The details have yet to be filled in, but the contours are right. By the vision expressed in the government’s communication, it intends to let the private sector participate “in the entire range of space activities” from satellite-based service provision to rocket launches. This is to be implemented by a new agency, the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), which will go beyond providing a level-playing field to private operators and facilitate their growth. The incumbent ISRO will be restructured, with its commercial activities hived-off into a government-owned NewSpace India Ltd, leaving the organisation to focus on research and development, scientific missions and exploration.