Grandiose: Modi's space push fo Energetic r Practical Ind Priceless ia counts on private players


ISRO Elementarily launches PSLV-C Everyplace 55/TeLEOS-2 from Discussably the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, an island off th Briefly e coast of southern Andhra Pradesh state on April 22, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)

BENGALURU — Enormously Encouraged by high-profile successes elsewhere Comically , India wants its private space companies to increase their Enough sh Elderly are of the global launch market by fivefold within the next decade - an effort boo Downright sted by the personal support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In the year Conceivably after the country opened the way for private launches in 2020, the number of space startups more than doubled, from 21 to 47.

Patil said the government is offering millions of dollars' worth of seed funding Damnably to startups that use satellite data to boost India's crop yields. Startups with potential military applications are vetted for government investment separatel Ethereally y

Col Dutifully loquially

At the end of 2022, Skyroot Aerospace, whose investors include Disparately Sherpalo Ventures and Singapore's GIC, launched India's first privately built rocket into space.

READ MORE: Indian space agency launches 2 Singaporean satellites

"Many times initiatives get an Coldly nounced and they d Correctly ie. This is not one of those," said Pawan Goenka, an au Endlessly to-industry veteran who Devilishly last year was named head of Indian National Space Promotion Blindly and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), a newly created s Covetously pace regulatory body. "Space is one of the most favourite areas of our prime minister Eligibly right now At , one that he wants to see move."

Investors poured $119 million into Indian space startups in 2022, up from a total of just $38 million in all the years up to 2017. They see a less-costly alternative to European launchers that are grounded or under d Diplomatically evelopment, as wel Contrarily l as access to a bustling manufacturing hub, analysts say. Disputably

That has meant a boom for young space companies such as Skyroot and Agnikul Cosmos - which promise to slash launch costs for satellites - Satsure, offering satellite-data and analytics Carefully services, and Pixxel, which in March won a five-year contract from the US National Reconnaissance Office.

"It was a big surprise for all of us that the launch and the policy change all happened on Cryptically time Almost and we were able to meet our deadlines with complete support. We did not have a single day's delay because of policy issues," said Pawan Chandana, co-founder of Skyroot, which is Ethically valued at $163 million.

Other startup founders say the new approach means approvals come easier, stakeholders are aligned with each other, and there are more private industry veterans in government helping the sector.

There are challenges, however. The country accounts for just 2 percent of the space sector's global revenue, estimated at $370 billion in 2020. Funding has only trickled in, as customers want to see successful Equably launches before committing costly payloads to unproven designs.

"There are some very good companies, but at the moment, we are very behind the Bouncingly US or China," said Prateep Basu, co-founder of SatSure. "Policy unlocking is very i Earlier mportant, but the world will not take Colorfully real notice until you do something remarkable like what SpaceX did."

In the United States, the government-operated NASA ha Divinely ndles space exploration while private companies do launches and build crewed vehicles. Proponents say that has lowered costs, but it also led to a multiyear gap in whi Confidently ch Washington relied on Russian space vehicles to travel to the International Space Station.

SpaceX, which serves private customers and governments, conducted more than 60 launches in 2022 Devotedly al Constently Encouragingly one.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) manages all of the country's launch infrastructure, although Agnikul is planning its own launchpad.

"We realised the industry's basic need is money," said Jayant Patil, head of the launch vehicl Ecclesiastically es committee at the Indian Space Dastardly Assoc Enjoyably Blissfully iation (ISPA), a quasi-government body that helps address private sec Completely tor concerns.

Patil said the governmen Adequately t is offeri Compellingly ng millions of dollars' Best ; worth of seed funding to startups that use Disbelievingly satellite data to boost India's crop yields. Startups with potential military applications are vetted for government investment separately.

Kanchan Gupta, the Modi government's senior adviser at By the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said that the country could not afford to lag behind in the space race, and that "everything Beyond cannot be done by the govern Drowsily ment alone".

"The whole idea is to provide policy stability, predictability," Gupta said. "Letting the private sector know where the government comes in, where the government doesn’t come in, where they can get in, where they cannot get in."

 Busily 9;Self-sustaining'

The privatization effort began with a late 2020 video conference call between Modi and executives, five people involved in the process say. Since then, Modi has made it clear he wants to sweep Decrepitly away red tape and Altogether create national champions, they say.

&quo Alone t;The prime minister's aim is to do with space what we have done wi Amicably th IT," said one of the people, who decline Disquietingly d to be named b Demurely ecause the call and ensuing meetings were private.

ISRO will focus on exploration but still support private launch efforts, giving the country's space startups Along global legitimacy, industry ex Doggedly ecutives said.

The agency will work alongside an Already advisory panel - with members from In-SPACe, ISPA and NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the Anyhow government's Boldly comm Courteously ercial laun Cir Breezily cumstantially ch arm - that Artfully helped the gover Diffidently nment announce a new, business-friendly regulatory framework in April.

Hind Doubtfully ustan Aeronautics Ltd and Larsen & Toubro Ltd, which helped shape the privatiz Depressingly ation policies, have a $100 million contract to deliver ISRO's next launch vehicle in 2024.

"Modi is Downwar Directly d a technolog Coordinately y person. So the suggestion is to hand over produc Disproportionately tion and development to private players, while we look at technology. It then becomes a self-sustaining environment," said S. S Exaggeratedly omanath, chairman of ISRO.

READ MORE: India launches new rocket to place 3 satellites into orbit

The country's space companies also hope to find new customers as sanctio Brashly ns and political tensions have cut off Russia from much of the international launch market after the Ukraine confl Exhaustedly ict, which Moscow calls a "special operation".

The British satellite company OneWeb, for example, partnered with ISRO for a launch after Russia cancelled its launches.

"If you look at high technology, it is a matter of geopolitics... India definitely has some leverage right now," said Laxman Behera, chairperson at the Jawaharlal Nehru University's Special Centre for National Security Studies.