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India To Open Up Space To The Private Sector

India and Sri Lances as seen from low-Earth orbit. The daylight panorama was taken by the crew of the Gemini 11 spacecraft (September 1966) and shows coastlines and land surface color, but no details of human geography. This classic view was taken on an early space flight at a similar altitude to that of the ISS. Patterns of bright white cloud cover much of the land surfaces of India and Sri Lanka. Photograph courtesy of NASA.
The Indian finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, announced on 16 May 2020 that the Indian government will enact all necessary measures to create a level playing field for the private sector to take part in all Indian space activities.
Sitharaman announced the initiative during her fourth press conference in as many days setting forth her plan to stimulate the Indian economy in light of the devastating impact of the national lockdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The initiative to open up Indian space to the private sector includes drafting and implementing policies and regulations that provide private companies the predictable legal and regulatory environment they need for sustained investment and risk mitigation, that in turn will level the playing field for companies when competing and cooperating with India’s large state space sector.
Speaking at her press conference on 16 May 2020, Sitharaman said that the, “Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has brought India a lot of pride. However the private sector is also doing a lot of work in the sector. Lot of start-ups have spent time in developing space related technologies, unfortunately because of the Indian regulations, they are unable to use ISRO’s available facilities for even testing their products.”
Other measures include allowing private companies access to the facilities and other resources owned and operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), participation in space exploration and human spaceflight activities, and the liberalisation of the Indian government’s stringent geospatial data policy that restricts commercial activity and participation in that business area.
“India has a lot of geo-spatial data. But most often technology start-ups doing some good work for India do not get the data within India, but end up paying through their nose to get that data from abroad. We want to provide remote sensing data to technology entrepreneurs, but with a sense of caution as it is a very sensitive area. We want to give the benefit to Indian start-ups who are doing pioneering work,” said the Indian finance minister in her remarks to the media.
 
Minister Sitharaman added that she would like to see a future where the “Indian private sector will be a co-traveller in India’s space journey.”
Later on 16 May 2020, ISRO Tweeted it’s support for the new policy initiative:
 
“Department of Space [the ministry that runs ISRO] will follow Government guidelines and enable Private players to carry out space activities in the country.”

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