“I invite wholeheartedly the private players to come forward and carry out the space activities and make India a global technology powerhouse.”
Sivan’s announcement came a day after the Union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved reforms in the space sector to allow private sector participation in the entire range of space activities.
In an interview with The Quint, Sivan expressed optimism in the private sector’s ability to “boost the industrial base of the country” and contribute to the missions undertaken by the space agency.
At a time when countries like the United States has already allowed private companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Amazon-owner Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Boeing among others, to develop and operate commercial space missions and flights, Sivan told The Quint that he feels India can “leapfrog” others with its human resources in private sector.
PRIVATE SECTOR PARTICIPATION IN ‘HIGH RISK BUSINESS’
Responding to a question about the specific sectors of space operations in which private companies have expressed interest, Sivan said:
“We have received requests for all the sectors. Launch vehicle sector, satellite sectors, applications sector, all the sectors people are interested in taking part. And I am sure they will be able to make use of the new system that we are proposing.”K Sivan, Chairman, ISRO
Earlier, during his press briefing, Sivan had elaborated that private sector can “play a larger role than being just a supplier of parts and components.”
He had stated that the Department of Space will promote private sector space activities “to enable it to provide end-to-end space services like building and launching of rockets and satellites as well as providing space-based services on commercial basis.”
Speaking with The Quint, he added caution by acknowledging that space sector business is a high risk one and companies will have to be careful about quality as well as safety and work closely with ISRO.
“Definitely space business is very high risk business. At the same time, it requires safety, security and quality to take care of the risk,” he added.
“The mechanism that we are proposing will take care of quality aspect and also we will be enabling them to use our facilities very efficiently and risks can be mitigated to some extent. They will be able to do their job in a very cautious way.”
“In these missions they can contribute to some technological development. Each mission requires very high-end technology development,” Sivan told The Quint. “So, the private sector will definitely have a say in the development of the technology that will be utilised in these missions,” he added.
Earlier during the day, Sivan told PTI that ISRO had planned 10 launches in 2020 which have “got disturbed” because of the COVID-19 pandemic and is likely to postpone Gaganyaan Mission’s launch to end of 2021.
“Gaganyaan will be impacted because of the lockdown… all industries have not yet started functioning,” Sivan told PTI.
COMPETING WITH OTHER COUNTRIES
Stating that private players can “can compete and do really useful work,” Sivan explained that ISRO wants “to give opportunities to the private sector to carry out interplanetary and other science missions so we can compete with other international agencies.”
When asked about private companies in countries like the US and China already having a headstart in commercial space exploration and space flights, Sivan told The Quint:
“Other countries are also having private participation in space activities and now we are also in the loop. Considering the quantum of human resources India has and with the hard work feature of Indian we will be able to leapfrog others in this area.”
On 31 May, SpaceX’s inaugural astronaut mission successfully docked with the International Space Station, becoming the first privately designed and built spacecraft to do so.
On 24 June, Union Minister Jeetendra Singh had announced that IN-SpacE (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre) will be the nodal body under the Department of Space that will drive the participation of private sector in space operations with ISRO. Sivan stated that the body should be operational in the next three to six months.