Private Players and the Space Race
Through Martand Jha
Recently, the news of the outer space arena has attracted the attention of many space enthusiasts. India’s first dedicated space think tank, “Spaceport Sarabhai”, was started by a group of entrepreneurs and lawyers who want to carve out space for themselves in a system still largely governed by ISRO. Around the world, private players like SpaceX and Tesla have established themselves in the outer space business, which is very expensive by nature and character.
For a country like India, a think tank on space affairs is a paradigm shift that highlights people’s interest in this sector. During its launch, Dr. Susmita Mohanty, Managing Director of SARABHAI Spaceport (S2), said, “S2 embraces the multi-dimensional nature of human space endeavors. Lens S2 includes, among others, geopolitical, scientific, economic, legal, safety, security and sustainability issues related to space activities. She also informed that S2 will engage with the Indian Space Association (ISpA) and the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe), and undertake research to assess the Indian space economy. . The name Spaceport Sarabhai chosen for this think tank is a fitting tribute to Vikram Sarabhai, founder and first president of India’s space programs.
click here for more Hyderabad news
Given the kind of years 2020 and 2021 for private actors showing deep intent in outer space-related activities, it is obvious that this decade could prove to be a turning point in the space history of the world. ‘India. August 15, 2019 marked 50 years of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which was institutionalized as the nodal body for India’s space activities by the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi , who, along with Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, believed the space program should be a separate entity from the Department of Atomic Energy, which ran the space program in its early years when sounding rockets were regularly fired from the launch station of equatorial rockets from Thumba, in Trivandrum, from November 21, 1963.
We must go back to the historical context in which the evolution of the Indian space program began to take shape and why India, as a newly independent Third World nation, wanted to invest in space programs in the 1960s when the country was faced with a deluge of problems in various fields. The origins and evolution of India’s space program is one of India’s most inspiring stories since independence. This is explained by the context in which the country’s space program has developed. India was ranking very low in almost all socio-economic indicators when the launch of Sputnik 1 took the world by storm.
The first two decades after independence were dedicated to nation building. India was struggling with problems. To think of having your own space program was very “idealistic”. Many believed that India was in no position to spend on something that ‘elite nations’ would do. The reference was to the Cold War space race in which the United States and the Soviet Union spent heavily on their space program.
Five decades later, India is not only sending a manned mission to outer space, called Mission Gaganyaan, but is taking active steps to diversify its space-related infrastructure. A focused speech on “Atmanirbhar Bharat” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 12, 2020, led to discussions on what it really means for the economy, especially for our space program. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman clarified that the private sector will be allowed to use ISRO’s facilities and other relevant assets to enhance its capabilities. Future plans for planetary exploration, outer space travel, etc. will be open to the private sector. The private sector will be a co-traveler in India’s space journey.
While launching the ISpA in October 2021, Modi said, “The Indian space has been dominated by a single umbrella of Indian government and governmental institutions. Indian scientists have made tremendous progress over these decades, but the need of the hour is that there should be no restrictions on Indian talent whether in the public or private sector. In a way, the country has given a new gift to the talent of Indian entrepreneurs by opening up the Indian space sector in its 75th year of independence. This statement reaffirmed the point made by the Indian government last year that it wants private players not only to enter the space sector, but to invest heavily. Spaceport Sarabhai therefore seems to be a logical continuation in a series of events taking place in the Indian space sector.
A good thing would be if the fear of space weaponry and the militarization of space could be controlled to safer limits, provided that nation states do not behave like rogue states and outsource their ambitions of conquest space to private entities, much like how the British government outsourced its powers to the East India Company to pillage and plunder.
Frankly, any good idea can be tweaked to achieve the outcome desired by those who do it. This is where civil society, the media, academia and global institutions like the UN come in. They will have to put in place the necessary checks and balances so that outer space is not used as a tool to harm humanity. Space is a “global commons” entity, and therefore, if this new space race in its new character does anything harmful in outer space, it would create a global risk. The idea of such a race should be for the advancement of human life.
When this pandemic is over and things start to move at full speed, then the nature, character and shape of this new space race will be unveiled. This decade may prove to be one of the most important decades in shaping humanity as a whole’s interest in outer space.
You can now get handpicked stories from Telangana today to Telegram everyday. Click the link to subscribe.