India’s space programme is one of the most well-developed in the world and has achieved numerous successes through its state-owned agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). In India, ISRO is responsible for driving the space activities. Although several private sector companies have engaged with ISRO as suppliers and component manufacturers, they have never been vested with the responsibility of end-to-end manufacturing of space.
Given the above background, this paper provides an overview of India’s private space sector.
Entry of private sector in the Indian space industry – current landscape
There has not been much emphasis on enhancing commercial activities in the Indian space sector, and as a result, the participation of the private sector in the Indian space industry has been minimal in space activities. However, there is huge scope for the commercialisation of the ground operations like mission support, satellite broadband gateways and 5G backhauling.
Existing value chain mapping of the private space sector in India
India has seen a large base of SMEs involved in supplying parts and components for satellite and launch vehicle manufacturing. These suppliers are contracted by ISRO for meeting its demands.
In the recent times, ISRO has adopted public private partnership (PPP) policies to encourage companies to take up more production activities.
ISRO has also formed a consortium of private industry players for Assembly, Integration and Testing (AIT) of 30–35 satellites.
Size of India’s space economy
The current global space economy is pegged at USD 360 billion. The Indian space economy is valued at USD 7 billion, which is around 2% of the global space economy. The Indian space sector needs to grow at ~approximately 48% CAGR over the next five years to reach its target of USD 50 billion.
With significant market advantages like high demand for services, strong domestic manufacturing base, cost advantage, a large human resource pool, and ability to leverage IT skills, the time is ripe for policymakers to encourage a greater role for the private space industry in India.
Trends and perspectives on upstream and downstream sectors of the Indian space industry
A large-scale market opportunity for private enterprises in the Indian space industry can arise if there is a flagship programme to facilitate the development of spacecrafts by the industry on a routine basis. Small satellites are transforming the dynamics and economics of the space industry. Another important trend is an increased demand for servicing satellites required for in-space repair or upgrading satellites in orbit.
There has been a rise in demand for nanosats and mega constellations of small satellites, which has in turn made satellite launch services a lucrative business. The manufacturing of small satellite launch vehicles by Indian private players is aimed at building a strong space ecosystem in the private sector and, through this, garnering a fair share of the growing launch market.
ISRO possesses critical resources like data archives from Earth observation satellites which can be beneficial to citizens and businesses and can support better decisions and policies. The role of earth observation through satellites in the areas of environmental protection, disaster management and defence is increasing.
There is considerable demand in India for satellite-based services for communication purposes, and this will see upward movement with the implementation of initiatives like 5G, Internet of Things (IoT) and BharatNet.