Indian Space Policy for the Private Sector

Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle via the Indian Space Research Organisation

The Draft Space Activities Bill and its Challenges

In 2017, the Indian Department of Space (DOS) released the Draft Space Activities Bill, a proposed bill setting goals and regulations for the private space industry. The Draft Bill was drawn up as a result of several startup companies in India expressing interest in space activities and the need to create an appropriate legal environment for private industry. In 2020, the Government of India announced that private companies would be allowed to play a more active part in India’s space sector. The government introduced these policy reforms intending to leverage the private sector to make it one of the most self-reliant, spacefaring nations. Space is a booming industry around the world—current estimates predict that the revenue generated by the global space industry could increase to over $1 trillion annually by 2040.1 For decades, India’s renowned space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has independently launched and maintained India’s space program as one of the best in the world.2 But in this rapidly growing environment, the Indian government has recognized that it cannot harness the demand for space-based activities and services on its own. The new developments in the DOS intend to open the floodgates for indigenous private companies to propel India’s odyssey in space forward.

Whether the Draft Bill is conducive to private industry is a contentious issue. There are differences in the level of optimism among the government, industry leaders, and space and legal experts. Although both government and industry display a high level of optimism on the future of the private sector in space, the substance of the policy deserves scrutiny to ensure its feasibility. The key question facing policy makers in India is will these policy changes successfully bolster the Indian space sector? This paper explores the challenges and opportunities in growing the private space sector in India under the Draft Space Activities Bill.

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