Comprehensive Space Strategy will not only strengthen inter-organization coordination in India’s space sector

Question – The Comprehensive Space Strategy will not only strengthen inter-organization coordination in India’s space sector, but will also help build investor confidence and project the country as a responsible space power. Discuss. 14 March 2022

AnswerSpace is vital to our nation’s security, prosperity and scientific achievement. Space-based capabilities are integral to modern life in India and around the world and an essential component of military might.

The rapid development of commercial and international space activities in the world adds to the complexity of the space environment. Commercial space activities provide national security benefits with new technologies and services, as well as create new economic opportunities in emerging markets. These activities, however, also pose challenges in protecting critical technology, ensuring operational safety, and maintaining strategic advantage.

India’s growth and prosperity in the present era is due to its ability to secure its use of outer space. With the advent of the Second Space Age, private companies such as “SpaceX” are leading the charge, not government civilian space agencies.

The challenges to the governance of outer space can be broadly grouped in two categories- (1) Regulation of the growing number of space objects and variety of traffic in space, and (2) space security challenges in outer space.

The need for a comprehensive space policy:

  • Space has wide applications and dependencies in almost all aspects of civilian life and military operations. Therefore, India needs to avoid getting engrossed in a select few space projects. Instead, a balanced approach is needed to address in-orbit, Earth-to-space and space-to-Earth applications.
  • India has recently set up its Defense Space Agency (DSA) and Defense Space Research Organization (DRDO), but has not kept any strategic publication or detailed charter regarding their mandate, goals and direction.
  • However, some media reports suggest that the Defense Space Agency is looking to acquire technologies that can assess threats, and maximize the effectiveness of Indian operations in space, land, sea and airspace. This is the right approach for DSA as ri-services agency. However, a more credible announcement in a comprehensive national strategic publication would reassure private NewSpace companies to improve their ability to supply these technologies and secure investor funding.
  • In the context of international fora and engagement with international partners, the international community and the United Nations General Assembly are setting out norms for responsible behavior in outer space. In such a situation, India’s strategy should indicate that it will be not only a partner, but also a major stakeholder. Therefore, it is imperative to voice India’s concerns to ensure unrestricted access to space use by all countries.
  • Transparent Space Situational Awareness (SSA) should also be a priority for India’s strategic publication, as it augments India’s capabilities across the spectrum for defence and deterrence.
  • India’s progress in space exploration, despite gaining a lot of momentum over the years, still lags behind China in ambition and execution. Being China’s strategic adversary, and even though the budget for the Chinese space program is six times that of India, India will have to compete hard with China in space.
  • India faced international criticism for its Mission Shakti, the Direct Ascent Anti-Satellite Test. China faced similar criticism when the Fengyun-1C satellite debris put the International Space Station at risk.
  • The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has incorporated manned space flight as a major focus area with the upcoming Gaganyaan mission. It is of strategic and scientific importance for India not only to highlight the importance of manned space flight missions but also to highlight the importance of continued human presence in orbit and deep space exploration.
  • In the two decades since the SATCOM policy was passed, India has made little progress in formulating a comprehensive policy or legislation to regulate its space sector. Several efforts have been made to create an all-encompassing framework, which lays out rules so that the industry can grow and realize its potential. With significant growth in space-based utilities, India must establish a policy framework that provides an equal opportunity for the private sector through burden-sharing between public and private actors.

A number of processes also exist for building governance frameworks on each of these challenges, with countries differing as to whether treaty-based approaches are more effective than regulatory approaches. Many argue that treaty-based approaches and conventional arms control mechanisms are no longer possible in outer space, as countries in space have diverse objectives. He believes that the regulatory approach should be emphasized. In such a scenario, regulatory tools can help make progress in the short term, and provide the potential to create an environment for legally binding, truthful measures in the future.

The success of India’s space policy, which is based on using space in a sustainable manner and for peaceful purposes, is commendable. India reaffirms that outer space is the ‘common heritage of mankind’ and it is the responsibility of all astronaut countries to preserve and promote the benefits that accrue from advances in space technology.

Therefore, there is a need for collaboration and integrated dialogue among various stakeholders, who need to come together to help establish an appropriate framework for space policy and governance. In addition, policies are needed to expand the space economy, which will soon form the backbone of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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