Launch of PSLV C37 Copyright credits ISRO

The Department of Space on Oct 22 came out with India’s first Comprehensive Space Policy 2020. The policy aims to cover all aspects and dimensions associated with communication satellite and the corresponding activities associated with creation, operation and dismantlement / replacement of such space assets. Being one of the first of tis kind in India there were a lot of expectations with the new Space Policy as it was hoped that it will be in tandem with the new developments in area of Defense, interplanetary travel, interplanetary resource utilization as well as commercial exploitation in all its dimensions. Unfortunately the Space Policy fails to achieve any of this and restricts itself in dealing with telecommunication, satcom etc only. A missed opportunity  to say the least. 


The launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik, the world’s first Earth satellite in 1957 is widely regarded as the beginning of the Space Age. Four years later, Vikram Sarabhai, founder Director of Physical Research Laboratory, presented a paper to the government outlining how the country’s nascent space technologies could be harnessed to address India’s development challenges. The following year, the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was constituted to advise the government on a space policy. By the end of 1963, the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station was set up and a US-supplied Nike Apache rocket was successfully launched into orbit carrying a French payload. Some years later, in 1969, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was established under the administrative control of the Department of Space and INCOSPAR’s advisory role was subsumed into a Space Commission.

Stage 1969 – 2011

India’s space activities had come into life on 1969 with the creation of ISRO. However with a string of new and sophisticated launches that followed from the year 2010 scientist at ISRO as well as the
government had started contemplating the much required need of developing a definite space policy that will lay bare the objective of the Indian Space activities.

The period subsequent to the year 2011 saw a series of ambitions projects of ISRO gaining successes so whether it be the launch of Chandrayan series or Mars Orbiter Mission to the Mars. ISRO and its capabilities had started to get the recognition that it deserved. Its competence as being the cheapest and perhaps one of the most reliable service providers of end to end solutions from manufacturing to  launching satellites took center stage, when it successfully placed a record 104 satellite in orbit with great precession. ISRO had already made a mark for itself in the area of Remote sensing where the technologies developed and used by it are one of the best available today.  ISRO was also getting compared to private companies like SPACEX who had mastered the art, just like ISRO, of manufacturing and launching cheap reusable launch vehicles. The Indian Space agency also had a very big advantage. It was able to provide a number of launching stations located all long the coastline of India with a new manoeuvrable launch pad being developed and tested in Tamil Nadu.  

These successful launches had a profound impact on the way ISRO as well as the Department of Space that started to view its space programme in a different light. One would not but notice that this was also the period that saw the spread and exponential increase in the internet penetration peak in India. Many internet service providers such as OneWeb and Starlink systems of space X where moving into their ambitious projects of providing internet services to every person on earth using thousands of Low Earth Orbit satellite technologies. Military applications such as for controlling and manoeuvring missiles when they are at high altitudes or using insular networking services for navigation of Naval ships as well as reconnaissance were being developed across the world which heavily relied on communication with satellites.  The cost of manufacturing launch vehicles as well as satellites had reduced drastically with nano-satellites becoming a popular in usage in all kinds of industries. The Satellite manufacturing as well as business of launching these satellites had gained traction like never before. Suddenly there was scope of a whole new industry that could evolve from these so called space related activities.  

The initial frame work for ISRO was very similar to that of Atomic Energy Commission and The Atomic Energy Commission Trombay later re-named as The Bhaba Atomic Research Centre 1967. Regulated by the 1948 Act and later amended in 1962. Unfortunately, ISRO working through the Department of Space never received the Legal framework that it most essentially required and every project undertaken by ISRO was guided sadly only by the Vision or Mission statement. This de facto arrangement had its own limit and it was increasingly felt that a comprehensive policy framework that would crystalize and provide structured roadmap for the government and the public at large that were to be achieved by the activities in space.

1997 Satellite Policy

EUTELSAT 172B Copyright credits wikipedia commons

The first ever usage policy for satellite based Communication was created as late as 1997 titled “A policy framework for satellite communication in India”. The policy aimed to achieve dual objectives firstly to increase industry Participation in the thriving INSAT Satellite services segment and also to assist the proliferation of manufacturing and development of satellites and the ground working equipment. The policy aimed to accommodate technologies like DTH and remote sensing capabilities that were available during that period. The policy aimed to bring in both national as well as international players in the business of providing this form of television and communication based services. New age technologies such as mobile telephony, GSM services and the internet were not yet developed such as to provide any space for new markets. Space based activities were rather limited and it is no surprise that the space policy were geared to address only such limited issues. 

Procedure for SatCom Policy 2000

The government of India through the Department of Space quickly came up with the Procedural Framework for implementation of the 1997 Satellite Policy titled “ Procedures for SatCom Policy Implementation”. The detailed procedure was enunciated by the department falling under the categories namely use of INSAT Satellite for Non-Governmental entities, for the Establishment and operation of Indian Satellite Systems and finally for use of foreign satellites for SATCOM services. The capacity of INSAT were to continued to be used for use and disposal of the government through Doodarshan and prasad Bharati while INSAT Co-ordination Committee (ICC) was given the discretion of allocation of additional services to non-governmental bodies. Only Indian entities with  max 74% FDI were allowed to participate and operate satellites using the India Orbital spots. The representation of the said entity for Orbital spots was to be done by the WPC wing of the Ministry of Communication. Further the authorization for the use of foreign satellite were to be given unless similar services were being rendered by Indian Satellite.

In 2001 the government issued a Remote Sensing Data Policy; it would subsequently be amended in 2011. The policy covers the acquisition and distribution of remote sensing data from both Indian and foreign satellites. The ‘one window clearance’ centralised regulatory authority with the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), which falls under ISRO.

The policy and the procedure prescribed no particular mode of effective or efficient method for the commercial players both Indian and Foreign players who wanted to both manufacture, launch and operate their satellites using facilities both on the ground as well as orbital The procedure and the policy it implemented both were deficient in terms of prescribing a statutory framework for authorization as well as insurance / guarantees schemes that have always been the backbone of any industry and its development. There was clearly a disconnect between the government policy and the pace at which technologies especially the Mobile Telephony and the internet based services boomed after the telecom sector was fully liberalized. The policy of 1997 was not geared to cope up and the result of this was that there was no real expansion of industrial participation around space related activities. The domain of space remained thus exclusive club of PSU’s and other state entities. Even the few companies that were able to make some contributions remained suppliers to their only client namely the Government.


PSLV 39 Core copyright credit ISRO

India had long missed the bus while space industry was made to wait in the serpentine que of governmental red tapeism.   Simultaneously, India couldnot stay astray from the advantages that would naturally follow by adopting these technologies and the Billion dollar industry of which he could be a part of. The space policy that was originally being conceived and developed since 2010 had to be upgraded to incorporate civilian/commercial uses as well as military uses while at the same time allow exploratory search and scientific investigation.  The government had finally given a go-ahead to Department of Space and ISRO in the year 2016, for the creation of the basic space policy that would dictate all the future activities associated with both commercial as well military use of the orbital assets.

The pace of developments ever since gathered a lot of steam and this period also saw the introduction of The Draft Space Activities Bill 2017. A lot was being said as to how the same will be a game changer for the Space sector. Unfortunately, this bill lapsed  in the parliament and was never re-introduced again. Questions were being raised ever since as whether the government or ISRO will be able to open up the sector in the near future. The new space policy seems to be in the form of an expression and a desire of the government the objective of opening up the space sector.   

The new Space Policy 2020 makes a genuine attempt at achieving these objectives. The preamble to the policy recognizes the growing demand for satellite based communication services. The policy suggests and admits that there is a need for more talent, Technology as well as enterprise to be truly in a position to exploit  the enumerable possibility that space holds for India as well as the world. It does concede to the fact that the Policy document of 1997 as well as its implementation blueprint prepared in the year 2000 had not ceded the given the desired results which the present policy will attempt to. The new policy document intends to allow the entry of both national and international players in providing satellite based communication services both for India as well as for the world. The policy proposes to enhance the capacity of the country in the area of Space technologies by both promoting and also assisting in creation of a space based communication industry with a stress on indigenization of technologies ad protection of existing space assets. The blueprint of the space policy has been highlighted in the documents in the following words:

“The Spacecom Policy – 2020 enables the activities of space based communications under five major statements. Spacecom Policy-2020 states that the Government of India shall –

– adopt measures to monitor and authorize use of space assets for communication to or from Indian territory.
ensure protection of space assets already put in place and adopt measures to bring in more space assets under the administrative control for enhancing ability to utilize space based communication for national needs.

promote increased participation of commercial Indian industry to provide space based communications both within the country and outside.

concentrate on realization of space based communication systems for addressing the requirements that cannot be effectively, affordably and reliably satisfied by commercial Indian industry either because of national security concerns or economic factors.

provide a timely and responsive regulatory environment for the commercial Indian industry to establish and operate space based communication systems.”

ISS copyright credits wikipedia commons

Adoption of measures to monitor and authorize the use of space assets for communication to
or from Indian territory

The policy here aims to build a system of authorization for space based assets from the Indian Territory.  In fact this form of authorization of the space based assets already exists today however there was no clear mechanism existing untill today as to how space assets not otherwise owned or regulated by the government were to be dealt with and further how damage or losses caused by the such space based assets whether owned or not owned by the government were to be dealt with either. The present space policy attempts to address this lacunae by introducing steps for such form of authorization.

Ensure protection of space assets already put in place and adopt measures to bring in more space assets under the administrative control for enhancing ability to utilize space based communication for national needs.

As has been suggested earlier the policy aims to promote and assist in the development of the Indian Space industry. The policy aims to put the country in league of a few nations that can give end to
end services for any space industry that is from satellite manufacturing, launch capabilities as well as monitoring and regulation of space activities in general. Eventually all these activities will require a set of basic regulations governing each of these aspects. The process of registration or authorizations as its called is perhaps the single most important regulatory requirement that could provide the legal and regulatory certainty necessary for the development of the nascent space industry. The policy in play aims to achieve both maxing the utilization of satellites in full capacity as well as in protecting the continued use Orbital Slots. Further the policy also aims to increase the availability of additional slots currently being bargained as well as those in service from ITU (International Telecommunication Union). Strangely the policy document doesnot hint at the possibility of participation of private industry in the negotiations with the ITU for additional orbital spots or such spots as would have been desired by the private industry. It may be noted that allowing industry participation of the private sector in negotiations with the ITU for orbital spots could perhaps turn out to be a game changer for the growth and expansion of the satellite launch industry.

Promotion of increased participation of Indian industry to provide space based communications both within the country and outside

The policy claims to be geared towards better participation from the private sector in activities associated with space activities. However, the policy per se only intends to open up the sector in the area of basic communication activities involving satellites to the private sector. Therefore the policy suggests that the private sector will be allowed and encouraged  in “realizing, owning, operating satellite systems for communications over India and outside, creating facilities for satellite control operations and so on. India already has well equipped multiple launching pads across its length and breath it was but expected that at least short term lease of these lauchpads would have been in the offing but it is now its clear that no such extension of services will be offered.

Provision of timely and responsive regulatory environment for the commercial Indian industry to
establish and operate space based communication systems

The policy document also lays bear the basic regulatory framework under which the Indian Space Programme will be operating under. It suggests that Satcom Policy shall be authorised by an autonomous body under the Department of Space while the Department of Space itself will be framing the rules and regulations governing the various commercial activities associated with the Space related activities. Indian National Space Promotion & Authorization Center (IN-SPACe), an independent body constituted by Government of India, under Department of Space (DOS), shall accord necessary authorizations and permissions for all satcom related activities, to or from Indian territory, as per the applicable acts, regulatory provisions & exemptions and statutory guidelines.  As suggested earlier ISRO and other PSU under the Government of India were operating the various projects of the Department of Space simply on project objectives set time to time and there was no comprehensive policy or goal that laid the framework for its activities. The present policy aims to settle this once and for all.


SPACEX launch of reusable rocket copyright credits

The policy believes that greater industry participation will achieve the accelerated growth that the department of Space and ISRO had hoped to achieve under the earlier 1997 and later 2000 Space policy. The policy conceives industry participation by involving the private sector in the areas of design, development and realization of satellites and associated communication systems.   By allowing the establishment of satellite systems which could be privately managed through owned as well as hired orbital resource. The policy also facilitates  establishing telemetry, tracking & command (TT&C) earth stations and satellite control centre (SCC) in or outside India. The Private sector will be also entitled to offer on hire its services to entities both Indian as well as foreign which will also include Orbital Resources. The only condition being that the said entity is registered and thus authorised by the Indian Government.


The backbone of the policy document rests heavily on the ability of the Indian Establishnment to bring in maximum orbital resources including spectrum capabilities within its administrative leash. In that respect, it has under the policy made mandatory that no communication resource whether in the form of services or orbital resources itself, which is not authorized by the Government, will be allowed to  operate within the Indian Territory. The authorization shall be given only to Indian entities for:

  • Using both indigenous as well as foreign orbital resource for communication services within India
  • Owning space based communication system for service to be provided both in India and abroad provided the entity shall provide the guarantee or insurance for owning such systems.
  • Establishing ground based system for controlling and operating the communication systems

System of Authorization for India Entities

Indian entitles will be authorised on the event of satisfying the following conditions:

  • While proposing a new orbital resource details pertaining to the same
  • Authorization will be given for use of both existing as well as new orbital resources
  • Authorization will be applicable only to specific Orbital Resource and any change will require a fresh filing.

Indian entities using Non-Orbital Resources will have part from the condition of insurance, registering of specific orbital resource will also have to share:

  • Expression of willingness by the applicant to indicate that owner of Non-Orbital resource willing to bring the same under Indian administration through ITU Filing targeting India.

Indian entitles using Orbital or Non-Orbital Resources for services outside India. The Indian entities will be required to share the following:

  • Providing a guarantee/ insurance cover for the activities being proceed by it
  • Details of arrangement made with foreign and India administrations for using orbital resources

The policy also provides the process of registration and authorization for NGSO (Non-Geo synchronized Satellite Orbit) as well as ground based operation and controlling systems such as Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TT&C) station and  Satellite Control Center (SCC).

Apart from this it also requires all the entities to ensure that proper time lines for operationalization of their services. The policy further requires that  the use of non-Indian orbital resources and the proposed new Indian orbital resources shall not pose any constraint to operations of existing and planned satellites under Indian administration, and should not be in violation of coordination agreements entered into with India and other countries. Further the authorization does not imply granting of any Service License or Frequency/Siting clearances for earth stations. These must be obtained separately from the appropriate authorities under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MoIB), Ministry of Communication (MoC) in India or similar regulatory authorities in other countries as the case may be.   

Mars photo MANGALYAN(MOM) copyright credits ISRO


The Policy document also provides that satellite services associated with Defense as well as societal/educational/scientific/research related activities shall continue to remains in the domain of Government as well as its select PSU’s .

There seems to be no change in the policy of the government related to the use of orbital resources of the state for purposes of defense/societal/educational purposes. This aspect of the policy though requires a bit of clarifications though since there are a lot of Satcom based services that are dual use. For example remote sensing and mapping can the used for both reconnaissance as well as for Disaster Management Services. Further there is a also an issue of dual use of the same technology that has allowed even perceived non-lucrative services targeting societal/educational/Defense services to be commercially viable. The policy however misses this aspect about technology completely.


The new policy documents appears more in the nature of semi-regulation framework than a document stating mere policy. The policy document contains prescribed applications/forms by which entities can make their respective applications. Further there has been a mention of intricate conditions in the policy itself pertaining to the system of authorization and registering of entitles with Department of Space etc.. This is quite unlike a policy document. What one will also note is that the covering letter to the policy also states that it will be open for discussion with public uptill 4-11-2020 that is merely 19 days from the date of the letter  15-10-2020. Leaving only a few days for suggestions. Policy documents shared with the public ordinarily are given any time from 3-6 months for consultation. This is quite extraordinary since India has never had such extensive policy document on matter of Space since 1965 and yet very little time has been given for such discussions. The policy has also remained quite ambiguous as regards educational/societal and defence related service which could have been more elaborately discussed.

The policy document is much about the final structure of the Government Of India Policy on matters of Space as it is very unlikely that any further suggestion can be incorporated or even received in such short phase of 14 days.


Chief of Defense Staff Mr. BIPIN RAWAT copyright credits Indian Express 7-11-2020

The Space Policy 2020 is exclusively devoted to matters of civilian use of Space Assets and to be more particular pertaining to communication satellite services. Any policy document that will lay the backdrop and the objectives of all space related activities for any country should also comprehensively discuss the parameters of aero-space defence especially when India has already established Defence Space Research Organization (DSRO) under the aegis of DRDO. Further India
is also offering and promoting “make in India” with 100% FDI in the area of Defence. However, the policy has remained silent about the possibility of Industrial Defence Complex for Space related activities thereby giving mixed or confusing signals to the Defence Industries as whether India is indeed open for defence collaborations or not.

Recently the Indian CDS (Chief of Defence Staff) Bipin Rawat in his formal address to the nation in the 1st week of November, relating to India’s military preparedness had expressed the satisfactory strength of our forces to deal with all hostilities on land, water, air, cyber and space. This was an admission of the top echelons of India’s MILITARY brass the existence of Space as a possible theatre for war. It was therefore quite disappointing to see that India’s New Space Policy 2020 is devoid of even an admission to this new reality and suggests that the Indian space establishment cannot view  Space only for exclusive civilian purposes and express the military dimensions as well.


The Space Policy of 2020 has made sincere efforts to win back the industry confidence by making all the right noises such as allowing operation of Private sector on all areas associated with satellite manufacturing, operation, administration and further industrial application of technologies. The policy does raise a lot of hope in all these sphere but again it remains quite unimpressive when it
comes to mentioning special concessions that the government will be providing start ups or industry in general in matters of Tax concessions, prioritization and promotion of the space industry in allocation of land, labour, electricity etc.. which is a common policy adopted by successive government for promoting industries such as Telecommunication, mobile manufacturing etc.

The policy it seems appears t have been hastily put in place and concentrates only in limiting its scope for allowing private participation but fails to show the roadmap in terms of concrete steps that the government will be taking for the growth of individual entrepreneurs and parts manufacturers etc. This aspect also needs to be looked into by the government and it will not be surprising to see that the government may in fact come forward with another policy document aimed at promoting this entrepreneurship.  


copyright credits NASA

many advance countries such as Australia, The United State of America, China, Luxemburg etc governments are quite open to the idea of exploratory search as well as extension of human settlements on the moon and beyond. Such governments have even allowed private enterprises to pioneer these interplanetary settlements as well. In fact quite recently NASA had allowed NOKIA to set up and provide 4G internet services over the surface of the moon. Further the Artmes Programme 2020 introduced by NASA aims to partner with both governmental and non-governmental entities to explore the outer space especially the moon for possible commercial purposes.

The era of interplanetary exploration and the potential it holds has been discussed in detail in all of such documents. The Space Policy 2020 being brought forth quite recently it was expected would have mirrored these latest developments in clear terms or at leas mentioned the broad principles of The Outer Space Treaty 1967 outlined under the Artmes Accords. Sadly the policy has come out as a missed opportunity in this regards.

What ever that one may have found lacking in details one cannot but finally acknowledge that there has been a genuine realization both in Space Establishment of India as well as the Indian Government that western United States Model of greater private participation in the areas of commercial satellite based communication services is the way forward for the development and management of Space related activities.

ELGIN MATT JOHN © 2020 Elgin Matt John & Associates