Tag Archives: Space Sector

Leadership deficit in ISRO and Modi Government’s initiative to go for Space Sector reforms

Lalit Shastri

Over the years and in public interest, Newsroom24x7 has been following closely the working and performance of the Space Headquarters that they prefer to call ISRO, and also different Centres linked with India’s Space Programme and working under Department of Space.

The present dispensation virtually scuttled the privatisation move and issued just an expression of interest in 2019. It has also closed the small satellite program and virtually killed most of the societal applications. In this backdrop, the present ISRO leadership is falsely trying to take the credit for the reform process set in motion by the Cabinet presided by Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday.

Read more of this content when you subscribe today. Access to our premium content is allowed only to subscribers paying a monthly fee.

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.

Indian National Space Promotion & Authorisation Centre will create the ground for participation of private industries in the Space Sector

Newsroom24x7 Network

Minister of State for Atomic Energy & Space Jitendra Singh

India takes first step towards restructuring the Space Sector

New Delhi: Carrying forward it’s plan to restructure India’s Space Sector, the Government of India has decided to set up Indian National Space Promotion & Authorisation Centre to pave the way for the participation of private industries in space activities by introducing policies supported by a friendly regulatory environment.

This decision, taken at the Cabinet meeting presided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was announced on Wednesday 24 June 2020 by Minister of State for Atomic Energy & Space, Jitendra Singh.

Singh said, the Cabinet decision is a true tribute to the founding father of India’s Space programme, Vikram Sarabhai, who visualized space technology becoming pan India. The proposed reform will enhance socio-economic use of space assets and activities, he added.

In a tweet Singh said this afternoon “Known for out-of-box, bold and futuristic decisions, only PM Narendra Modi could have made it possible. The decision will go a long way in preventing India’s Space talent Brain Drain and simultaneously help India establish itself as a frontline world nation.

With this development, ISRO will be reduced to an organisation only to manage the facilities. The drawback with ISRO till now was that it was working secretly and its capability was limited to only a handful of people working within the organisation. According to Singh, human resources and expertise (for the Space Sector) will now improve.

PM should be alert to machinations to upset the plan to reform the Space Sector

Lalit Shastri

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had made the announcement on 16 May that the Union Government has decided to go ahead with structural reforms in eight priority sectors, including Space and Atomic Energy, Defence Production, Civil Aviation, and Power Sector.

In the Space Sector, private sector participation will be boosted, the Finance Minister announced while underscoring that level playing field will be provided to private companies in satellites, launches and space-based services and that predictable policy and regulatory environment will be created for the private players. Under the new policy the private sector will be allowed to use ISRO facilities and other relevant assets to improve their capacities. Future projects such as planetary exploration and outer space travel shall also be opened up for private sector. There will be liberal geo-spatial data policy for providing remote-sensing data to tech-entrepreneurs.

Reform of the Space Sector is a move in the right direction but it has to be coupled and integrated with the legal framework. Simultaneously, what cannot be swept under the carpet is the recommendation by a number of Parliamentary committees to separate the two posts – the post of Secretary Department of Space and Chairman ISRO.

In an editorial 3-months ago, it was also pointed out that the chairmanship of the Space Commission under the chairman ISRO has been given absolute freedom to push it’s own agenda. Seldom are the user departments consulted or a comprehensive review done on where is ISRO vis-a-vis other space-faring nations, especially in terms of technologies. The edit also brought in focus the fact that a lot many satellites have been launched with 2 to 5 years lag in setting up of ground segments. The recent aborted GISAT-1 launch was also in the category of disconnect with the user departments. The PM’s attention was also been drawn towards the need to bifurcate the top post in ISRO and to codify it’s selection and promotion policy.

As a first step towards reform of the Space Sector, the Government is on the verge of appointing the first Chairman of the National level Board being set up to handle a range of issues connected with India’s Space Programme, Private sector participation and optimum utilisation of the ISRO facility.

The Government while appointing a Chairman to head the new Board should not repeat the mistake it did when appointing a junior scientist as Space Commission member. The Government will be on the right track by ensuring that the senior-most scientist becomes Chairman ISRO and someone less senior heads the Board – preferably an outsider to bring in fresh ideas and better accountability. Putting an ISRO man in that capacity (Chairman of the new Board) will result in business as usual.

It is also important to note that the newly formed NewSpace India Ltd (NSIL) is not exempt from Department of Public Enterprises guidelines and any Chairman of the company should be selected by an open advertisement by the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) and not by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) on the recommendations of the Chairman ISRO as it is being done.The company which was set up to transfer technology to the Pvt sector has not even been transferred a pin till now.