In line with its mandate to open up the space sector for private players, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has released the draft of a new Spacecom Policy 2020 to govern the commercial use of orbital slots, satellites, and ground stations for communication needs. The policy details how private players can get authorization for setting up new communication satellites and ground stations. Comments on the draft policy have been sought, with the last date of submission being November 4. The policy will come into effect once the Union cabinet clears it.
Allowing private players in the space communication sector will also enable India to keep pace with the growing demand for satellite-based broadcasting, network connectivity, and global mobile personal communication. This will also establish India as a significant player in the global space communication sector, the document states.
The policy will allow only Indian entities to seek authorization for orbital slots for new satellites, services based on existing satellites, and setting up new ground stations. However, any company sending a communication satellite in space will also be liable for any damages to other objects in space and the environment. To cover this, companies will have to provide a financial guarantee or insurance cover at the time of seeking authorization from the department of space and later from the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe). The policy will also protect India’s orbital resources or slots. Getting designated orbital slots is a long-drawn process that needs a lot of technical coordination and negotiations with other satellite operators of multiple countries to ensure interference-free operation of all satellites.
The private players will be able to acquire these orbital slots from the department of space PSUs at a cost. However, there is an international time-stipulation for launching a satellite into the designated orbit and continued occupancy is essential. So, to protect the orbital slot, the private companies will have a timeline for operationalizing satellites. And, if any company is unable to replace a satellite, the slot will be allocated to another. India has brought in 32 indigenous operational communication satellites since the 1980s.
In addition, all existing ISRO -operated satellites—such as INSAT and GSAT—will be handed over to the PSUs, like the New Space India Limited, at “no or notional cost” which can then charge as deemed fit for commercialization.
“Although I haven’t gone through the policy yet, it is a step in the right direction. However, what we really need is a comprehensive space policy that will map out how will the government’s announcement of opening up the space sector be actually executed, and the policy and regulatory framework that would be needed. Such a policy will also map out the scientific missions that will be undertaken by ISRO while leaving the routine missions to the private sector. It should clearly detail the needs of India’s space sector and allow for a fair competition for the private space sector to deliver,” said Rajeswari Rajagopalan, head of Nuclear and Space policy at the Observer Research Foundation.