Elon Musk’s company SpaceX recently launched 60 satellites under its Starlink Project in the Lower Earth Orbit. The primary purpose of these satellites is providing cheap broadband networks. SpaceX is a U.S. based private space company that has made its mark in space activities in the recent past. It is in this context that there is a need for introducing private players in the Space sector in India too.
ISRO is performing excellently and has made its mark at a global level, but it is short on capacity and a large part of what it offers is rented from overseas private satellite firms.
According to TRAI’s report, in the last 5 years data consumption has increased by 100 times. With better technology, demand will continue to rise. An even more significant problem is that despite the rapid spread of telecom services, large swathes of the country remain uncovered by genuine broadband. Satellite technology offers a way out since it can offer commercially viable broadband connectivity to the areas that are not densely populated.
The Vajpayee government had opened up the space sector to private firms way back in 2000, but no decision could be taken afterwards. Recently the Union Government has permitted for reforms in the space sector by allowing private players’ participation.
ISRO released Draft SpaceCom Policy 2020. It will regulate the commercial use of satellites, orbital slots and ground stations for communication needs. The policy also details how private players can get authorisation for setting up new communication satellites and ground stations.
Private players will enable India to keep pace with the growing demand for satellite-based broadcasting, network connectivity and global communication. The Government wants private players to participate in the space sector not as a vendor, but as a partner. Only Indian entities will be allowed to seek authorisation for orbital slots of new satellites. Private industries will also be allowed to use ISRO satellites and can also have their own satellites.
Why are private players required? The most important reason is ISRO is overburdened by its regular operations such as the launch of satellites, construction of launch vehicles, etc., which are becoming hurdles in ISROs way of working in new projects. Private players can participate in setting up ground stations for space crafts which constitute 48% of the space sector budget.
However, there are certain challenges, the most significant being that the high precedent technology should not fall into the wrong hands. Laws can be made that can prevent the technology from being misused. For the launch of bigger satellites, ISRO is still dependent on foreign countries. Lastly, COVID-19 has affected many of ISROs programmes, like the delay in the launch of Chandrayaan 3.
In conclusion, it can be said that it is essential for stakeholders to take India as a technical powerhouse at the global level so that we can lead the global community in the technological area.