‘Vested interests want private players in space’

‘ISRO facilities are very expensive and any damage caused by these start-ups can create havoc to our space programme.’


In a major policy decision, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday allowed the participation of private players in the space sector, including in areas like planetary exploration.

The decision comes at time when there has been a clamour for restructuring the Indian Space Research Organisation and bring in private players into the system.

“Who will be answerable if any damage is caused by the private user?” former ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair, who headed India’s premier space organisation for six years, asks Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com. The first of a two-part interview:

Last week you released a statement on the loud cry to restructure ISRO and also allow private players in the field. How do you react to the government’s decision to allow private players in space activities?

The government’s decision to form INSPACe (the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre) is the follow-up of the announcement made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman earlier to strengthen the Indian economy.

I welcome any move by the government to create an ecosystem to boost private participation in space activities.

The ball is now in the court of the private players and start-ups. How well they play the game will decide whether it is going to be a success or a failure.

I don’t know whether this is the right time to implement these reforms, and whether adequate preparations have been made.

The economy is in deep recession, coronavirus cases increase every day, and now border skirmishes with China… Do you feel space activity is one area that will suffer against this background?

There will be some impact, but it will not be as drastic as what you see in the economic sector.

The reason is because the work for the projects scheduled for this year started two years back. So, those projects are in the mature stage and once the lockdown is over, they should be able to resume the work.

The only impact will be the reduction in number of missions from 11 to 6 or 7.

Of course, there will be some impact on the long-term performance because of the budgetary constraints as the space sector depends solely on government funds.

Now we all know that the priority is to tackle the pandemic, migrants problem and the economy. So, there may be some reduction in the funding to the space programme. To that extent, the future programmes may get affected.

So, there will be…

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