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India's Space Policy 2023: Keeping Pace with Growing Space Aspirations

Kiran Mohan Vazhapully

5 May 2023

The New Space Race is rapidly transforming the landscape of space exploration in the 21st Century. As a major space power, India too has been closely watching the developments in the arena. India has now introduced a bold new space policy that represents a concrete step towards enhancing collaboration, innovation and international cooperation.

India's Space Policy 2023: Keeping Pace with Growing Space Aspirations

India's space programme has come a long way since its inception in the 1960s. Under the leadership of Dr Vikram Sarabhai and later Dr Satish Dhawan, India's space programme achieved significant milestones. However, as the global space landscape has evolved, new opportunities and challenges have emerged, necessitating a more cohesive and strategic policy framework. The Indian Space Policy 2023 marks a significant shift in India's approach to space exploration and utilization, acknowledging the need for collaboration, innovation, and sustainable development.


In recent years, space has become an increasingly contested domain, with countries and private companies racing to develop cutting-edge technologies and establish a foothold in outer space. With a rapidly growing population and a thriving economy, India has the potential to play a significant role in the global space landscape. The Indian Space Policy 2023 provides a roadmap to help India realize its space aspirations and contribute to the shared goals of the global space community.


Redefinition of Roles


The redefinition of roles under the Indian Space Policy 2023 is a significant step towards streamlining the space sector in India. The policy acknowledges the need for a more collaborative and innovative approach, and the redefined roles are aligned with this goal. The previous structure under ISRO had limitations, which included inefficiencies and missed opportunities, and was not able to keep pace with the rapidly changing global space environment.


The policy empowers IN-SPACe, an autonomous regulatory body, to regulate and facilitate private sector participation in the space sector. This shift allows ISRO to focus on research and development, rather than managing regulatory functions, which can help stimulate innovation and enable faster decision-making. This redefined role enables the private sector to participate in space research and development projects with ease, fostering collaboration and partnership between the public and private sectors.


In addition, the policy focuses on effective utilization of public expenditure and commercialization of space technologies and platforms. The New Space India Limited (NSIL), under the Department of Space, is tasked with promoting the commercial use of space technologies and platforms, creating market opportunities, and generating economic benefits. This approach not only attracts private investments but also creates a competitive ecosystem crucial for India's long-term space sector growth and sustainability.


International Cooperation


International cooperation is an essential aspect of space exploration and utilization, and the Indian Space Policy 2023 recognizes this by highlighting the role of the Department of Space (DoS) in coordinating international cooperation and global space governance programs. This coordination allows India to take a more active role in shaping global policies and norms, including representing the concerns of the Global South.


The Department of Space, in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), can help streamline and augment India's participation in international space law-making. This approach aligns with India's vision of promoting a peaceful and secure space environment that benefits all countries. The policy also acknowledges the pressing concern of space debris, which is a significant threat to space operations, and outlines measures to ensure safe and sustainable space operations. The DoS is tasked with establishing a framework that adheres to international space debris mitigation guidelines, demonstrating India's commitment to a sustainable space environment.


India's participation in international space forums, such as the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPOUS) in Vienna and the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, is an important aspect of the Indian Space Policy 2023. India has been an active participant in these forums, and the policy provides a framework to strengthen India's representation and ensure that its voice is heard. Through these platforms, India can ensure that its interests are protected and assume a leadership role in representing the concerns of the Global South.


Balancing Civilian and Military Space Efforts


The Policy focuses on promoting civilian and commercial aspects of the space sector but does not directly address the integration of civilian and military space efforts. India's space capabilities are increasingly important in the context of national security and defence, and it is essential to establish a framework for integrating these capabilities.


India has already established the Defence Space Agency (DSA) and the Defence Space Research Organisation (DSRO) under it in 2019. The DSA comprises of personnel from the Army, Navy, and the Air Force. The agency has been tasked conducting space military operations through integrating the space assets dedicated to the three forces. Meanwhile, the DSRO handles research and development for the DSA. The DSRO could work in collaboration with the commercial space sector and defence agencies, leveraging public-private partnerships to develop dual-use technologies that promote innovation, cost savings, and ensure India's space program remains balanced and capable of addressing the full spectrum of space challenges.


The integration of civilian and military space efforts is not a new concept, and many countries, including the United States and China, have adopted a comprehensive approach. The United States has established public-private partnerships with companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin to develop advanced space launch capabilities for both civilian and military purposes. These partnerships have fostered innovation and reduced costs, providing a model for India to follow.


India could benefit from adopting a more direct approach to integrating its civilian and military space efforts. This approach could help develop new technologies and capabilities that benefit both sectors, promote collaboration and partnership between the public and private sectors, and ensure that India's space program remains competitive and capable of addressing the full spectrum of space challenges.


The Road Ahead


The 2023 Policy paves the way for a bold future in India's space sector, focusing on innovation, collaboration, and international cooperation. However, as the global space landscape constantly evolves, India must remain adaptable and embrace strategic foresight to keep pace with change. Policymakers must remain responsive to emerging trends and technological advancements, updating the policy as needed to balance national interests with international responsibilities, ensuring sustainable use of outer space and championing equitable access to space resources and technologies. By doing so, India can shape its space destiny and contribute to the shared goals of the global space community.


As the global space landscape constantly evolves, India has the opportunity to position itself as a leader in the space domain. The Indian Space Policy 2023 provides a strategic framework to build on India's achievements, address emerging challenges, and seize new opportunities in the rapidly evolving space domain. By embracing adaptability and strategic foresight, India can harness emerging technologies, balance national interests with international responsibilities, and contribute to the shared goals of the global space community.


Disclaimer: The article expresses the author’s views on the matter and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of any institution they belong to or of Trivium Think Tank and the StraTechos website.

Kiran Mohan Vazhapully

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Kiran is an international lawyer working for an intergovernmental organization. He is a doctoral candidate at the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata.

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