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Govt Wants Private Sector To Invest In Space; Companies Wait To See Commitment From Govt

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Govt Wants Private Sector To Invest In Space; Companies Wait To See Commitment From Govt


Despite the success of Chandrayaan-3 mission and the government introducing the space policy in April 2023, a host of factors seem to make investment in space sector a cautious prospect for private players

The global space economy is currently around $447 billion, according to estimates by McKinsey. India’s share of the pie is about $8 billion, a measly two per cent.

The Indian National Space Authorization Centre (IN-SPACEe) has set a target to increase this to 8% by 2033 and 15% by 2047, the 100th year of Independence. The government believes that the key to this is the increased participation of the private sector, especially the larger players.

However, despite the success of the Chandrayaan-3 mission and the introduction of a space policy in April 2023, a host of factors seem to make investment in space sector a cautious prospect for private players.

The Big Enabler

The Chandrayaan-3 mission successfully landed on the south pole of the moon on August 23, 2023. ISRO aims to set up the first Indian Space Station by 2035.

“We are aiming for the first module of the Indian Space Station by 2028, and then we would progressively start building it so that the Indian Space Station will be in orbit by 2035,” said Victor Joseph, associate scientific secretary at ISRO.

Joseph was talking at a panel discussion on ‘From the moon to the sun: The dawn of the India NewSpace ecosystem’ at the Bengaluru Tech Summit that concluded last week.

Including the tall ambition of landing an Indian on the moon by 2040, ISRO has charted out its road map of space programmes till 2047. Joseph outlined technologies such as in-orbit servicing, propulsion systems, artificial intelligence and in-situ resource utilisation, which, according to him, would be the enablers to achieve the roadmap.

“In-orbit servicing would include docking in space, repairing and so on. Another area is AI — we need robots, humanoids and spacecraft that are self-decision-making. These systems will play a very critical role with respect to safety and security.”

“Then there is in-situ resource utilisation, that is utilising local resources from other planets to make missions more economical,” he said. He also noted that ISRO’s technological directions include satellite communication, earth observation, navigation and space science.

Industry Participation

In 2019, the government formed the New Space India Limited (NSIL) with the idea of commercially exploiting the global space market.

In June 2020, IN-SPACe was formed to increase private participation in the space sector. In April 2023, the Indian Space Policy was approved mainly with the aim of facilitating the private sector access to the space sector.

During the panel discussion, Joseph noted that the technological vision for the Indian space sector can translate into economic growth not just with government initiatives but with increased private sector participation.

“By 2047, we wish to increase India’s share (in the global space market) to 15%. The key to that is not only the government but also the private space sector. We already have many start-ups and MSMEs in play. But I think a much larger scale of industry participation, mainly from large industry houses, and the support of start-ups, will help to achieve such targets,” he said.

“We have a very good number of Indian companies developing technologies for launch vehicles, space crafts and innovative space applications. There should be more of that … Capacity building and end-to-end systems development by industry with the support of academia is what we have to aim for,” he added.

Private Players Cautious

Sreeram Ananthasayanam, a partner with Deloitte India, recollected the day of the Chandrayaan-3 landing as he spoke to the audience attending the panel discussion.

“When the lander touchdown was happening, I was about to enter a plane in the Bengaluru airport. There were five of us standing in the aerobridge refusing to enter the plane till we heard, ‘Sir, India is on the moon’.”

“After that, we walked into the plane, and you wouldn’t believe the kind of energy we saw among the passengers. The pilot was announcing the news with so much pride. I really hope after all of these, space tech and aerospace would become a choice as important as AI-ML or data science that young minds would get into,” he said.

While the landing of Chandrayaan-3 was a proud moment for the country, the excitement, however has not translated into big private players jumping into the space bandwagon.

According to Ananthasayanam, the new space policy has democratised the space sector, unlike earlier when the sector was highly regulated, decisions were centralised and very little commercialisation happened. He noted that significant private participation and cross-border collaboration have been happening in the sector, the role of non-government entities has been formalised, and the policy has laid out who is going to do what.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of unticked boxes, he said.

Space Activities Bill And Subsidies

The primary demand of the private sector is around policy and regulations. According to Ananthasayanam, the industry hopes to see the Space Activities Bill cleared in Parliament at the earliest.

“It will give a very clear role and legal teeth to the various entities,” he said.

The Bill, introduced in 2017 and pending before Parliament, encourages the participation of private sector players in space activities.

Ananthasayanam also made a case for further tax exemptions, tax holidays, incentives and grants for the private players in the space sector and production-linked incentives — not just for space components but also for space-grade components that could be used in non-space sectors.

“We did an industry consultation at Deloitte with 20 odd start-ups last week … One of the key things that start-ups were clear and unanimous in asking for was some kind of assembly integration testing facilities, which probably the government would subsidise because this is capital intensive,” he said, demanding a mechanism to take care of the huge working capital, and grants similar to what iDEX (Innovation for Defence Excellence) offers defence companies.

Democratising Space Data

During the panel discussion, Ananthasayanam also proposed to make downstream imagery from space and associated tech a DPI/DPG hoping that it would democratise space data and help to kickstart innovation in the country on downstream analytics of the space.

A DPI is a digital public infrastructure like Aadhaar or UPI, whereas a DPG refers to Digital Public Goods, which are open-source solutions. These solutions could be software, AI models, data, standards or content. In other words, DPGs enable DPIs.

Citing examples from agriculture and healthcare to back his recommendation, Ananthasayanam said, “The last Budget talked about agriculture being a DPI/DPG, now we are seeing Agri Stack and Krishi-DSS coming up. Prior to it, healthcare became a DPI/DPG, and we saw how quickly COWIN rode on top of it and gave us the benefits.”

Commitment From Govt

One of the major demands from the private sector is a long-term commitment from the government to ensure demand for space-related products and services.

Noting that space is a highly capital-intensive domain and most products are made to order and have a long lifecycle, Ananthasayanam said, “Unless and until there’s a long-term established demand, it is really difficult for the private sector to start investing in it. Perhaps the government could announce that they are going to be the front-runner in terms of consuming space imagery for decision-making. Or perhaps they could mandate that as a policy.”

The other recommendations included a socio-economic impact assessment for various sectors in the country, including space- which in turn could provide concrete numbers and statistics about the sector. Initiatives to tap young minds from the hinterlands, efforts to retain talent, expediting the adoption of space technologies and focusing on futuristic technologies were also among the proposals.

“Most importantly there are legacy private sector space companies who have been tier-1 suppliers to ISRO. Is there a way by which they can act as mentors or coaches to the start-up ecosystem and start helping them to grow?” Ananthasayanam wondered.

“If we can focus on such aspects, our ambitions would become a reality much before 2047,” he added.





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INS Arihant’s Nuke-Capable K-4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile ‘Ready To Roll’

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INS Arihant’s Nuke-Capable K-4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile ‘Ready To Roll’


NEW DELHI: India tested its nuclear capable K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), designed to have a strike range of 3,500 km, for the second time in six days on Friday. The missile test, as the one conducted on January 19, was undertaken from an undersea platform in the shape of a submersible pontoon off the coast of Andhra Pradesh according to a report by Rajat Pandit of TOI.

The solid-fuelled K-4 missile is being developed by DRDO to arm the country’s nuclear-powered submarines in the shape of INS Arihant and its under-development sister vessels. INS Arihant, which became fully operational in November 2018 to complete India’s nuclear triad, is currently armed with the much shorter K-15 missiles with a 750 km range.

“The K-4 is now virtually ready for its serial production to kick-off. The two tests have demonstrated its capability to emerge straight from underwater and undertake its parabolic trajectory,” said a source.

India has the land-based Agni missiles, with the over 5,000-km Agni-V inter-continental ballistic missile now in the process of being inducted, and fighter jets jury-rigged to deliver nuclear weapons. But INS Arihant gives the country’s deterrence posture much more credibility because nuclear-powered submarines armed with nuclear-tipped missiles are considered the most secure, survivable and potent platforms for retaliatory strikes.

Once the K-4 missiles are inducted, they will help India narrow the gap with countries like the US, Russia and China, which have over 5,000-km range SLBMs. The K-4 missiles are to be followed by the K-5 and K-6 missiles in the 5,000-6,000 km range class.

The 6,000-ton INS Arihant, which is propelled by an 83 MW pressurised light-water reactor at its core, in turn, is to be followed by INS Arighat, which was launched in 2017. The next generation of nuclear submarines, currently called S-4 and S-4*, will be much larger in size.





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After Upgradation, Sukhoi Su-30MKI Indigenisation To Reach 78%

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After Upgradation, Sukhoi Su-30MKI Indigenisation To Reach 78%


India has received clearance to upgrade 84 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets, which will result in 78% indigenization after the upgrade

In a significant step towards bolstering its military might with indigenously developed technology, India is poised to witness its Russian-origin Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets evolve into a domestic platform. Speaking at a recent lecture.

The upgrade program is being led by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in partnership with the Indian Air Force and other partners. The upgrade is expected to cost US$7.5 billion.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) granted Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for the upgrade. The upgrade is part of India’s efforts to improve the capabilities of its primary fighter aircraft, it refers to as the “Super Sukhoi”.

This initiative is a part of a larger effort by the Indian Air Force to modernize its ageing fleet. Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari asserted the critical role of an offensive air force as demonstrated in current global conflicts and emphasized India’s move towards an indigenized arsenal. To this end, the IAF has been proactive, from upgrading its Mirage 2000 to enhancing its MiG-29 fleet.

In summary, the IAF’s commitment to updating their combat forces with the latest technology, including shifting to fifth-generation fighter jets, ensures operational preparedness and a strong deterrence capability. The gradual indigenization of its air fleet marks a pivotal shift in India’s defence landscape, reducing dependency on foreign imports and fostering technological sovereignty.





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Akash Weapon System Exports For The Armenian Armed Forces Gathers Pace

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Akash Weapon System Exports For The Armenian Armed Forces Gathers Pace


According to unconfirmed reports, Armenia is a top contender for an export order for Akash SAM system manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL).

While there is no official confirmation because of the sensitivities involved, documents suggest that the order for the same has already been placed the report further added.
There are nine countries, in turn, which have shown interest in the indigenously-developed Akash missile systems, which can intercept hostile aircraft, helicopters, drones and subsonic cruise missiles at a range of 25-km. They are Kenya, Philippines, Indonesia, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Vietnam and Algeria reported TOI.

The Akash export version will also be slightly different from the one inducted by the armed forces. The 100-km range air-to-air Astra missiles, now entering production after successful trials from Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, also have “good export potential”, said sources.

Akash is a “tried, tested and successfully inducted systems”. Indian armed forces have ordered Akash systems worth Rs 24,000 crore over the years, and MoD inked a contract in Mar 2023 of over Rs 9,100 crores for improved Akash Weapon System

BDL is a government enterprise under the Ministry of Defence that was established in 1970. BDL manufactures surface-to-air missiles and delivers them to the Indian Army. BDL also offers its products for export.

Akash Weapon System

The AWS is a Short Range Surface to Air Missile (SRSAM) Air Defence System, indigenously designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). In order to meet aerial threats, two additional Regiments of AWS with Upgradation are being procured for Indian Army for the Northern borders. Improved AWS has Seeker Technology, Reduced Foot Print, 360° Engagement Capability and improved environmental parameters.

The project will give a boost to the Indian missile manufacturing industry in particular and the indigenous defence manufacturing ecosystem as a whole. The project has overall indigenous content of 82% which will be increased to 93% by 2026-27.

The induction of the improved AWS into the Indian Army will increase India’s self-reliance in Short Range Missile capability. This project will play a role in boosting the overall economy by avoiding outgo of precious foreign exchange to other countries, increasing employment avenues in India and encouraging Indian MSMEs through components manufacturing. Around 60% of the project cost will be awarded to the private industry, including MSMEs, in maintaining the supply chain of the weapon system, thereby creating large scale of direct and indirect employment.





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