Indian space sector to be turned into a business activity: ISRO chairman


PTI, Feb 11, 2024, 8:22 AM IST

ISRO Chairman S Somanath (source: PTI / File)

Thiruvananthapuram: 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 here on Saturday.

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

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’ — Rs 10,000 crore, he said during a session of the fifth edition of the MBIFL.

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

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,” he explained.

“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,” he added.

“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 manufacture of rockets and satellites here in India by multinational companies,” the ISRO Chairman stated.

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,” he said.

“This is being done because it (space sector) has to be turned into a business activity, 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.

The MBIFL which began on February 8 will conclude on February 11.

The theme for this year’s edition of the literary event is ‘Exploring Plurality’ — a 360-degree attempt at understanding diverse perspectives, cultures, and identities.

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