The country lags behind other major countries in the field of Space Tech, despite India spending around $1.8 billion on space programmes in 2019-2020. While India has launched about 5-7 satellites annually in recent years, with 19, 25 and 34 satellite launches respectively in 2019, the US, China and Russia dominated this region. However, with the space tech sector finding mention in the Economic Survey of 20-21, it could be a champion sector to look out for this coming year.
Space technology is a type of technology developed by space science for astronautical usage, such as space flight or space exploration. All forms of space technology are employed in our daily lives to predict weather using satellites (INSATS), remote sensing, satellite transmissions in our televisions, and the GPS that we are so used to these days to navigate and communicate locations. Government policies, local technology skills, and growing investor interest have boosted the number of spacetech start-ups in India.
Let's start with international treaties and covenants, then go on to India's space rules, and last, the prospects and concerns of space technology.
Treaties & Conventions
There are five international treaties that deal with space and can be summarised as follows:
- The Outer Space Treaty (1967)
- The Rescue Agreement (1968)
- The Liability Convention (1972)
- The Registration Convention (1975), and
- The Moon Treaty (1979)
Many of these are coordinated by the United Nations' Office of Outer Space Relations.
Four of the five treaties mentioned previously have been ratified by India, while one, the Moon Treaty, has been signed. Ratification denotes recognitionâ€”not agreementâ€”for those who are not in compliance with international law, whereas signing denotes an expression of agreement rather than agreement itself.
In addition to the aforementioned, India has ratified two other comparable treaties. There are a few:
- A treaty outlawing nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, outer space, and under the sea;
- And a convention barring the military or any other offensive use of environmental change techniques.
Spacetech Laws in India
The current Indian Space Research Agency, the Indian National Committee for Space Research, started the country's space technology storey in 1962. (ISRO). The first rocket was launched in 1963 under the expert leadership of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, and the well-known Aryabhata, an Indian research satellite designed and built domestically, was launched in 1975. India has gone from developing satellites under the ISRO aegis and launching them with the assistance of other countries such as Russia and France to commercially launching satellites for other friendly countries. By sending Chandrayaan, India's expedition to the moon, India learned for the first time that the moon had water.In addition, India sent Mangalyaan, a Mars expedition, with lower transportation expenses and a lower cost per kilometre crossed than an autorickshaw in India's tier two cities. India is now one of just seven countries capable of planning, developing, launching, tracking, and commercialising space.
For a long period, the space technology zone was reserved for ISRO and a few public-sector organisations. This is not to say that commercial interest did not exist in India; it did, but it was mostly limited to selling components and units for ISRO and other public sector entities' designs.
Despite India's outstanding and admirable technical and scientific achievements in the space sector, the country is far behind on the legal front. As of 2021, India has no space legislation. This is an odd circumstance because even countries that haven't made much of a mark in space technology have strong space regulations in place to cover any eventualities. India, which is a power to be reckoned with in space technology, does not have its own laws, despite ratifying four of the five treaties, signing one, and ratifying two related accords listed above.
Things A Spacetech Startup in India Should Know
In order to continue to be among the pioneers, Indian governments have realized that there is a huge potential in space technology and there is an urgent need to involve and work in partnership with private companies to exploit, failing which India will be reduced to an also ran.
Scope for Startups and Areas Needing Assistance
India has a solid understanding of both hardware and software. However, due to the capital-intensive design of electronic devices, India has been unable to supply the necessary infrastructure. The lack of stringent regulation to attract foreign investment exacerbates the situation. Despite being one of the few countries capable of developing, manufacturing, and launching satellites into orbit, they are still significantly reliant on imports for numerous electrical components. If the government passes the necessary legislation and establishes a single independent window regulator to entice foreign direct investment, a lot can happen.
Laws regarding Space Tourism in India
Another area of interest and potential opportunity is space tourism. Space tourism can be for fun, amusement, business, or education. Space travel is expensive, yet a buyer can find everything that is put on the market, as outlined in the Keynesian theory of jobs. It may take some time for the venture to break and become self-sustaining, but it is an opportunity that should not be overlooked. Space tourism provides numerous prospects for start-ups in the fields of food, clothing, and hygiene, to name a few.
The regulations that govern space travel are numerous and varied. They are controlled by the following:
- Criterion 1: rationae loci-jurisdiction is restricted to issues emerging in the state's territory from which transportation is provided (airspace or outer space).
- Criterion 2: rationae materiae, or subject matter jurisdiction, pertains to the mode of transportation, the engine, and other objects.
- Criterion 3: The benefits and responsibilities of a client's legal privileges
Intellectual Property Investment in Space Tech
In space technology, as opposed to intellectual property, there is a lot of room for intellectual investment, similar to how venture capitalists invest money. It's a concept that should be cultivated and encouraged. There are some tiny steps being taken in this regard. ISRO encourages private sector intellectual collaboration.
The Future post Covid-19 Disruption
Chandrayaan-2 and Mangalyaan, the films that brought Mars and the ISRO into our homes, dominated the year 2019. In the year 2020, Covid-19 dimmed and upset all aspirations, yet it failed to douse the surging spirits of space travel. After some thought, the government decided to open up the space market to private players. Refer to the material covered by the above under the names IN-SPACe, NSIL, ACL, Atal Tinkering Labs, and Kerala Space Park, to name a few, for support of the argument.Conclusion
Although space technology is dominated by government organisations on a global scale, private corporations have had access to it for the past two to three decades. Despite the existence of some powerful international treaties and accords, enforcement is a moot matter. It is encouraging that India is one of the forerunners in space technology, harnessing it for human benefit both at home and abroad.
India is technologically advanced, but lags behind in the electronic hardware business and has little legal presence. The government's recent actions give reason to believe that India is making rapid progress in closing the gaps and maintaining its overall lead. Much is being done in India in terms of technology, but much more needs to be done in terms of attracting and involving private parties and investors, as well as in areas such as legislation, entrepreneurial support, and so on.
In terms of both resources and human capital, space technology is costly. Although the expenditures are unavoidable, the gains are at best expected and at worst illusory. For establishing trust and propelling investors forward, a strong regulatory structure armed with space legislation is essential. An Indian space law would help both government agencies and private entities build their space technology by removing legal impediments that other nations can erect. Indian academies are allowed to operate under domestic laws.
India does not lack the political will to develop and enforce laws, nor does it lack the technological or intellectual resources to do so. The requirement of the hour, in accordance with international agreements and treaties, is to create our own precise space rules to the extent that they are not repulsive to Indian sensibilities and the larger benefit of humanity.
June 02, 2021