On 20 April 2023, the Indian government released the Indian Space Policy 2023 (“Policy”)1. The Policy follows the government’s space reforms in 2020 and a series of consultations that lasted for around 3 years. In October 2022, the government laid down its intent2 to capture a larger share in the USD 360 Billion global space economy for India, which currently stands at 2%. For this, the government aims to set up a framework to liberalise the sector and allow private sector participation through the Policy.
- Applicability: The central objective of the Policy is to facilitate and encourage the private sector – termed as Non-government Entities (NGE) – to conduct space based activities.3 Much like its previous versions, the Policy only allows Indian entities to participate in these activities, and therefore, the Policy mandates all NGEs to incorporate in India4 to obtain permissions to conduct these activities.
- Permissible space-activities: NGEs are now allowed to conduct end-to-end space based activities such as satcom, satellite launches and control, remote sensing and satellite navigation (SatNav), amongst others.5 It also allows NGEs to set up ground facilities like TT&C earth stations and satellite control centres NGEs are also permitted to undertake R&D in space-technologies for commercialization. The Policy enables the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe) to allow NGEs to undertake any other space-activities in future.6
- Government bodies: The Policy delineates the role of different government bodies in the space sector, i.e. the Department of Space (DoS), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), and the IN-SPACe.
The Department of Space (DoS) will be the nodal department for implementing the goals of the Policy through its directives.7 DoS will facilitate international as well as inter-ministerial coordination for space-governance in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs.8
IN-SPACe will be the ‘single window’ agency for the authorisation of different space-activities by the private players. It will promote the private sector’s participation in space-activities by (a) facilitating authorizations from different government departments; (b) transferring ISRO’s space-tech for private sector’s consumption; (c) enabling satellite launch manifests for private sector satellites; and (d) incentivize NGEs to use Indian space-tech and resources, amongst others.
NSIL will commercialize the space-tech developed using public funds.9 Notably, ISRO will gradually transition out from manufacturing and operation of space systems, and will focus on R&D in new space tech and hand-holding the private sector for different space operations.10
- Remote-sensing: The Policy enables ISRO to allow remote-sensing data access to NGEs from ISRO’s remote sensing satellites.11 Remote-sensing data of upto 5 meters and higher will be given to all entities on ‘free and open’ basis.12 However, remote-sensing data of less than 5 meters shall be made available free of cost to government entities, but at fair and transparent price to NGEs.13 NGEs can disseminate this data or applications based on remote-sensing data within or outside India.14 IN-SPACe will ensure NGEs’ access to the remote-sensing data from ISRO.15
- NGSOs: The Policy officially recognizes the establishment and operations of NGSOs.16 NGSO refers to low earth orbit (LEO) or medium earth orbits (MEO), which are increasingly used to provide commercial space based communication services.17 The Policy allows NGEs to offer “national and international space-based communication services” through self-owned or procured or leased GSO/NGSO satellites.18
- Non-Indian orbital resources: The Policy enables NGEs to use either Indian or non-Indian orbital resources for satcom services in or outside India.19 However, NGEs will be incentivized to acquire Indian orbital resources and register/coordinate their non-Indian orbital resources with Indian ITU filings20.
- ITU filings: NGEs can make new ITU filings to acquire orbital resources through the Wireless Planning and Coordination wing of the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) or through non-Indian administrations21. This ability to make ITU filings with foreign administrations is a new introduction. Previously Indian entities were required to approach the WPC for frequency coordination or for obtaining orbital slots.22
- Authorizations: The Policy has formalized the role of different government bodies, especially IN-SPACe, for authorizations of different space-activities, as already capture above. Notably, IN-SPACe can authorize the use of space objects for communication services in coordination with other government departments; however, use of such space objects for telecom and broadcasting purposes will continue to be also governed by the DoT and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, respectively.23
Authored by Bobby Jain with inputs from Vijayant Singh.
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