There was a lot of excitement when Chandrayaan-3, India’s third moon mission, was launched into space on July 14. The month also saw an important policy announcement — the Department of Space, on July 10, decided to share and transfer the technology of ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) to eligible Indian industries. The Department has invited applications from private players for the same. This decision is significant as it will help private participation in Indian space operations.
The space industry is set to take off in the coming years. A paper by McKinsey & Company and the World Economic Forum shows that the space market could grow exponentially to $1 trillion by 2030 (up from $280 billion in 2010). The demand for small satellites to a low earth orbit (LEO) is also set to increase. This growth will be powered by increasing demand for better civil and military communication, more accurate weather predictions and increasing use of new technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT).
India has the tools to cater to the demand — we have the technology to build and launch satellites, the skilled labour force and a proven track record of doing it cost-efficiently. But, despite this, the size of the Indian space sector is quite small. It was valued at $9.6 billion in 2020, and accounts for a mere 2-3 per cent of the global space economy.
So far, the government has been the major player in the sector and the role of the private industry has been limited to supplying parts to ISRO. Now, this is set to change as the announcement will help the private players build their own launch vehicles in quick time. And the hope is that it will also help the players compete in the global satellite launch market.
ISRO has proven that it has the technology, India Inc has proven that it can make the components, and now there is a growing network of start-ups to innovate in the sector. So, it is time to let the ecosystem thrive.