Space Sector reforms and ISRO: Will it be business as usual?

Lalit Shastri

On June 23, when it was already confirmed that the Union Cabinet would be meeting on Wednesday 24 June and the restructuring of the Space Sector was an important agenda, the twitter handle of ISRO announced “Secretary, DOS/Chairman, ISRO will be addressing tomorrow (Wednesday June 24, 2020) at 11:30 am tentatively. Live streaming available on our Website, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube”.

At 11.37 am on Wednesday, 7 minute after the scheduled Live Streaming of the address (to the nation) by the Secretary DoS , there was a follow up tweet by the same ISRO handle stating “Due to unavoidable circumstances, the address of Secretary, DOS/Chairman, ISRO is postponed for today and it is rescheduled at 10:30 a.m IST on Thursday June 25, 2020

Live streaming will be available on our website and social media platforms.”

In a related development on Wednesday, the Union Cabinet presided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved reforms in the Space sector aimed at boosting private sector participation in the entire range of space activities to ensure accelerated growth of this sector and to enable Indian Industry to be an important player in global space economy. The reforms that have been set in motion are supposed to enhance the socio-economic use of space assets and activities, including through improved access to space assets, data and facilities.

It has been projected by the Government that the newly created Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) will provide a level playing field for private companies to use Indian space infrastructure. It will also hand-hold, promote and guide the private industries in space activities through encouraging policies and a friendly regulatory environment.

The Public Sector Enterprise ‘New Space India Limited (NSIL)’ will endeavour to re-orient space activities from a ‘supply driven’ model to a ‘demand driven’ model, thereby ensuring optimum utilization of our space assets.

Now coming to ISRO, it is pertinent to bring on record the fact sheet about an application filed on 13 May 2020 under the Right to information Act seeking the following information:

Please provide the date, month and year of the formation of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

Please also provide the copies of government of India orders for the following:

  1. Setting up Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
  2. Rules and guidelines for the selection and appointment of Chairman Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
  3. All the appointment orders of Chairman ISRO issued by the Government of India since the setting up of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

The RTI application is still pending even after the 30 day deadline and after ISRO had responded to the Application stating on 18 May 2020 that the Request is under process.

Question arises, when ISRO does not have even a single order of appointment of Chairman, ISRO, to share in response to a query under the RTI within the 30-day deadline, how the Secretary Department of Space can hold the post of Chairman, ISRO. The big question is whether we have a secretary DoS or a Secretary DoS/Chairman, ISRO?

There is no clarity even now and no body knows whether Indian National Space Promotion & Authorisation Centre, cleared by Union Cabinet on Wednesday will be an independent authority or it’s going to remain under the present dispensation. Obviously if that’s going to be the case, it would be business as usual and all talk of restructuring the Space Sector would be nothing but a smokescreen for the general public.


  1. You can make tens of authorities as long as there are unemployed bureaucrats around, but you can not make adventurous entrepreneurs like Elon Musk or Richard Branson. If they are there, ISRO will only encourage them, unless the same bureaucrats stand in the way.


  2. Diploma Mechanical person will become HR head at 59 years (Which needs MBA -HR qualification), MSC (Chemistry) person will take the role of Finance and Administration Controller at the age of 58 years (which needs IAS or IRS qualification) , person who has not achieved any thing up to 58 years was given the role of Head of design division, person who take Chairman signature fradualently( for personal revenge) will be excused, complaint given will be lost in legal section, efficient Scientists are transferred over night and dummy posts are created as advisors …… How one can expect ISRO will encourage entrepreneurs like Elon Musk ?????

    First let ISRO adopt proper Human Resource Management , let them ban promotion based on sealed cover recommendation. Let ISRO Management properly noursih its own Senior employees and bring up next generation youths. Then they can think of generating enterprenuers like Elon Musk.


  3. InSPACe will find it very difficult to find an entrepreneur like Elon Musk in India. He has put almost all of his wealth to create SpaceX and NASA has to fund heavily(around 5 billion dollars) to develop a masterpiece like crew dragon.
    Space segment has very high risk /reward ratio, with heavy competition. Indian business houses, entering to such areas in a big way is remote, unless heavily backed by government guarantee.

    Allowing FDI with majority holding may be a way out, but InSPACe need to asses the security aspects.

    Till then it may confine to smaller players / start ups.


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