ISRO to involve private players to turn Indian space sector into business activity, says Somanath

ByPTI

Published Feb 11, 2024 | 9:42 AMUpdatedFeb 11, 2024 | 9:42 AM

ISRO chairman S Somanath

The Indian space sector is changing from a “closed” and “secretive” society to an open one and the objective behind it is to turn it into an economic or business activity instead of government programme, ISRO Chairman S Somanath said in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday, 10 February.

The change in mindset has been influenced by how space-related activities in countries like the USA have been turned into economic activity, Somnath said while speaking at the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters (MBIFL) 2024 being held at the Kanakakunnu Palace.

The ISRO Chairman said that in the past 60 years, the work of the space sector — from making rockets to satellites — was aimed at societal application, for delivering services that benefit the common man.

As a result, the budget of the space programme was “very less” — ₹10,000 crore, he said during a session of the fifth edition of the MBIFL.

To increase that by 10 times, it was decided to bring some changes to the space policy of the country, he added.

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Beyond the moon and sun

The changes would include delegating to the private sector the manufacture of rockets and satellites, research activity being done by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and increasing scientific missions like Chandrayaan, Aditya L1 and Gaganyaan, he said.

“We do not want the occasional Chandrayaan or Aditya mission. We need to have a sustained science programme. For that, we primarily need to increase exploration of Mars and the Moon.

“We want our own space station, to do zero gravity space research with the participation of industries and speed up work to send manned missions to space so that we reach a point where we are ready to set foot on the Moon. This is the vision now and that is what we are working on,” Somnath said.

Therefore, all ISRO centres in the country, for the last 2-3 months, have been working on designs for a space station, devising plans to send more missions to the Moon and get more samples from there, build a station there, etc., he said.

“India is not the only country focused on these things. This is being done by the USA, Europe, Japan and China.

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Talks on with multinational firms

“So, in the coming years, if India has to turn into a technology-based country, we need to realise that space is an important aspect and accordingly, create an ecosystem for the manufacture of rockets and satellites here in India by multinational companies,” the ISRO chairman said.

As part of that, discussions are going on with various companies like Boeing for making rockets and satellites in India and launching them from here, he said.

“These were things that were never thought of in the past. Space was a closed society. There was a lot of secrecy. We have now removed the feathers of secrecy and are bringing an openness to it.

“This is being done because it (the space sector) has to be turned into a business activity, and then a lot of new actors, startups and industries need to come into it. So, it is a huge policy change that we are making in this sector,” he said.

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