Expo 2020 Dubai: India ready for private-funded space missions, top scientist says

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R. Umamaheswaran R, Scientific Secretary to ISRO, addressing a seminar in the India Pavillion, at Expo 2020 Dubai. KT photo/Neeraj Murali.
R. Umamaheswaran R, Scientific Secretary to ISRO, addressing a seminar in the India Pavillion, at Expo 2020 Dubai. KT photo/Neeraj Murali.

Dubai - Private sector can venture into building and launching satellites, owning and operating satellites, and providing space-based services.


Anjana Sankar

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Published: Sun 17 Oct 2021, 8:52 PM

Last updated: Sun 17 Oct 2021, 9:58 PM

India is ready for private-funded space launches and the country’s space sector offers “tremendous opportunities” for the private sector to tap into the spiralling demand for space-based services and applications, a top Indian space scientist has said.

“The whole gamut on the landscape of space activity has changed from the earlier government funded and government conducted space activities. Now, we are going towards private funded and private conducted space activities,” R. Umamaheswaran, Scientific Secretary to ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation, said at Expo 2020 on Sunday.

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With the dynamics of space activities happening all around the world spiralling, he said ISRO as a government organisation alone will be “totally insufficient” to handle this new demand.

“So basically, the opportunities are unlimited as far as this business is concerned. I am sure nowadays - at least from my interactions in the last one and a half years - the private sector, definitely is ready for making the launch vehicle, making the satellites and providing the space-based services,” said the official while speaking at the “Opportunities in Aerospace, Defence and Space Sector of Karnataka” seminar held at the India pavilion at Expo 2020.

He said ISRO will, however, continue to do its own job of making missions of national importance and of social relevance.

Recapping the Indian national space organisation's achievements over the last decades, Umamaheswaran said ISRO has till date undertaken 78 successful launch vehicle missions, 111 satellite missions, and more than 250 application-oriented missions in addition to 330 satellites launched for other countries, and four technological demonstrations for other missions.

“As assets, we have 50 satellites, 19 communication satellites, two metrological satellites, 18 earth observation satellites, and 8 navigation satellites.”

But it is high-time, Umamaheswaran said, the space sector takes onboard the private players as well as the academia into confidence, and encourage them to do these activities, which will ultimately result in making the Indian economy much better, stronger and vibrant.

He said ISRO has undergone modifications keeping the changes in mind. “We have established a new regulatory mechanism, which is called IN-SPACEe that is mandated to draw regulations and to advise and handhold private entities interested in space activities.”

IN-SPACE2, a pan-India entity will be the latest addition to ISRO that has seven major centres, seven units and five autonomous bodies under the Department of Space.

The official said capacity building in data collection through more launch vehicles and developing space applications for human good are very crucial for the space sector.

The possible areas the private sector can venture into in space activity, he said, is building and launching a satellite, owning and operating a satellite, providing the space-based services.

Karnataka government makes pitch for foreign investments

Seeking to highlight its dominant position in the aerospace and defence sector, the Karnataka government made a strong pitch for more foreign investments in these sectors at World Dubai Expo 2020 here.

Murugesh R Nirani, Minister for Large and Medium Industries, Karnataka delivered his keynote address and said his state has great potential in aerospace, defence and space sectors. “Karnataka, apart from being India’s largest Aerospace cluster, is also the 2nd largest producer of Heavy Electrical machinery in India. Bengaluru alone produces around 60% of machine tools in India. Our State is also the 2nd largest chip design hub in the country. We have set up a Center of Excellence in partnership with Dassault Systems to provide industry-ready manpower,” Nirani said.

Highlighting the thriving small scale industries many of which are auxiliary to the aerospace and defence sector, minister Nirani said the state is providing a support system to push these sectors. “Karnataka has a strong base of around 2000 SMEs that carry out niche sub-contracting work in the Aerospace & Defence sector. Therefore, the well-developed support system for the sector has further facilitated the expansion of this industry while also attracting the global players to set up their base in our state,” Nirani added.

The minister lauded the Dubai Expo 2020 for providing a forum for states, business leaders and other stakeholders to meet, interact and collaborate. “I am confident that the dialogues and exchange of ideas that started on this platform will continue and translate into wonderful results for us to witness. I am positive that the upcoming Indian start-ups will learn from the experiences of the seasoned players and use their journey as the guiding path for their decisions in the future,” Nirani expressed.

Dr E.V Ramana Reddy, IAS Additional Chief Secretary, government of Karnataka, Gunjan Krishna.

IAS, Commissioner for Industrial Development also spoke at the session highlighting Karnataka’s immense potential as an aerospace hub and a favoured investment destination.

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