The central government will soon announce a National Space Policy that will allow private sector companies to manufacture satellite launch vehicles and speed up the pace of satellite manufacturing in India. An enabling policy to attract foreign direct investments (FDI) in the space sector is also in the making, says S Somanath, secretary, Department of Space and chairman, Space Commission and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Speaking at the opening of the India Space Congress 2022 in New Delhi on October 26, Somanath says that the policy will declare its clear intent to monetise ISRO's demonstrated capabilities through private participation.

"Of course the policy has not come out, it is with the government and they are about to announce it. But the policy will allow non government entities to come into this domain and operate in India. The intent will be communicated very clearly to stakeholders. It is also very important to note that FDI opportunity will also be spelt out and that policy will also come out very soon," he says.

According to Somanath, ISRO has been demonstrating its capabilities for many years rather than operationalising the capabilities. "We look at how the operationalising part of the capabilities can be converted into a business opportunity. This is what the government of India as well as our Prime Minister looked at when they announced the space sector reforms. The whole idea of reforms is primarily looking at how the demonstrated capability can be monetised or handled in a more businesslike manner and can create the scale of economy of space sector to grow," he says.

ISRO has always partnered with the private sector when it comes to manufacturing of satellites and launch vehicles. With the new policy, the government agency intends to play the role of a mentor through technology transfers and allowing the private players to enter into every segmentof space economy. "Companies can come to India and manufacture Indian satellite launch vehicles and we will be very happy to provide the required support to them. Similarly, the satellite building in India still continues to be (mostly) in ISRO’s premises and that is not what we want. We want more and more satellites to be built in the industrial ecosystem. This will give the world confidence in Indian companies as it will show that ISRO believes in private satellites. We would like to take some such satellites and launch from ISRO. We are already in discussion on how larger number of smaller satellites can be built within the industrial environment and launched for national purposes," Somanath says.

The India Space Congress 2022 is the first comprehensive space and satellite event by SatCom Industry Association of India (SIA-India) with support from ISRO, In-SPACe, NCIL, Departments of Space and Telecommunications and NITI Aayog.

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