Private players may soon end Isro monopoly | India News

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Jun 1, 2020

CHENNAI: India’s space programme is all set for privatization as the Space Commission has cleared a proposal to set up a National Space Activities Promotion Board.
Two sources in the department of space familiar with the developments told TOI that the Prime Minister’s office is expected to give its nod for the move that would mark the beginning of the end of Indian Space Research Organisation’s monopoly in the Indian space sector.
In fact, the proposal came as a result of a year-long process initiated by the PMO to reform strategic sectors. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had, on May 16, announced that the government would make future projects for planetary exploration and outer space travel open for private sector.
A senior official in the department of space told TOI that the proposed board will have powers independent of Isro. “It may have a chairman and a handful of members drawn from different strategic government sectors as also independent experts. The board will broadly lay the road for private companies to take up research and development of rockets and satellites, besides taking up space missions. The PMO will decide on its constitution and autonomy,” the official said.
Leading space-faring nations such as the US and China, besides the European Space Agency, have been encouraging private companies to be part of their space programme, while India had kept its core activities within Isro while outsourcing manufacturing of components for rockets and satellites from private companies. “This will soon end,” said the source. “Isro will be one of the players, if a prominent one, in future space missions.”
The PMO had, in June last year, set up a committee headed by Union minister Nitin Gadkari to study and suggest measures to strengthen the country’s strategic sectors. A deputy secretary in the PMO has been coordinating the reform plan for the space sector. There were differences of opinion within Isro as a section wanted to hold on to the organisation’s monopoly, while several seniors felt the need for opening up the sector to increase revenue from satellite launches and take up ambitious interplanetary missions.
After several rounds of discussions, the space commission (which is chaired by the Isro chairman and comprises about a dozen secretaries of the Union government besides the national security advisor) approved the proposal on May 20. Four days earlier, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said the government would allow private players to share Isro’s assets.
“India already has the benefit of an extraordinary institution like Isro, but now lots of private players are also coming in with innovative space technology. We will allow private players to benefit from Isro’s assets and give them a level-playing field to boost India’s space sector further,” she had said.
Isro chairman K Sivan did not respond to calls and messages from TOI.

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