There is a need for policy initiatives to better integrate Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) with industry teams in order to leverage existing infrastructure and technologies to tap into established as well as emerging markets across the world.
This point was brought out by none other than Dr. Sivathanu Pillai, Honorary Distinguished Professor at ISRO while delivering the valedictory address of the third edition of the ORF Kalpana Chawla Annual Space Policy Dialogue, organised by Observer Research Foundation on February 16-18, 2017.
Dr. Pillai emphasised on space applications empowering India’s various economic and industrial sectors. He presented a comprehensive overview of ISRO and applauded it for the increasing launch rate, reusable launch vehicles, missions to moon and Mars as well as future launch vehicle capable of placing six tonnes into orbit using semi-cryogenic engines. He also hoped ISRO would design missions that can mine lunar material such as Helium-3.
This year’s Dialogue opened with the inaugural address by Dr. G. Madhavan Nair, former Chairman of the ISRO. He highlighted various facets of India’s space programme as well as the contribution of various individuals in the growth of it. Dr. Nair remarked that ISRO stands out due to its culture of learning from mistakes. He informed the audience that GSLV Mark III will be ready for launch in a few months and called upon ISRO to plan human space missions as well as tap Helium 3 from the moon.
Dr. Nair also released a new book titled Space 2.0 India: Commerce, Policy, Security and Governance Perspectives, published by ORF capturing major contemporary space policy issues. His observations and remarks set the ground for debating and discussing relevant space policy issues that were segregated into ten panels — Satellite Internet for Digital India; Space Finance; Transponder Capacity for Broadcasting and Broadband over India; Collective Governance of the Global Commons; Derivatives from Space–Scoping the Downstream Applications; Emerging Space Actors; Role of Satellites in HA/DR Contingencies; Current and Evolving Challenges to Space Sustainability; Private Players – NewSpace, SMEs and Established Players; and Making the Case for India’s National Space Policy.
The Dialogue also featured special addresses by eminent leaders within the field. Yasushi Horikawa, Technical Counsellor of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) speaking on “Space Sustainability and Global Governance” remarked that space technology is a critical tool for the development on Earth but orbital debris, anti-satellite testing, space militarization, lack of effective transparency and confidence-building measures are some of the challenges to sustainability of outer space. He highlighted cooperation between ISRO and JAXA in earth observation and deep space exploration and called upon India and Japan to take lead in ensuring long-term sustainability of outer space.
Lt. Gen. P. M. Bali, Director General of Perspective Planning, Indian Army delivered a special address on “A New Frontier: Boosting India’s Military Presence in Outer Space.” He remarked that outer space assets have enhanced military communications; terrain mapping and navigation; signals intelligence; early warning of troop movements and missile launches; meteorological information and; ocean surveillance for geo-location of naval vessels. He opined that India’s distinction between civilian and military space requirements was borne out of necessity rather than choice. Although such distinction promotes greater transparency in India’s space programme, the changing realities in India’s neighbourhood should compel New Delhi to formalise a dedicated military space programme for India.
The valedictory session was chaired by Mr. Sunjoy Joshi, Director, Observer Research Foundation, which also featured the third special address delivered by Lt. Gen. B. S. Nagal (retd.), Former Commander of Strategic Forces Command. Lt. Gen. Nagal address the issue of “Outer Space and Strategic Stability” stating that outer space is inextricably linked to terrestrial affairs such as strategic weapons deployment. Space technology aids in monitoring deployment of nuclear weapons, testing, mobilisation of nuclear forces, early warning, command and control, guidance and damage assessment after using nuclear weapons. Space technology can also aid in monitoring implementation of international treaties and confidence building measures with respect to nuclear weapons. Dr. Sivathanu Pillai delivered the valedictory address.
The Dialogue was supported by initiative partners – Secure World Foundation, Jawaharlal Nehru University, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and International Committee of the Red Cross and Dhruva Space. Other sponsors and associates included European External Action Service, Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana, Union of Concerned Scientists, European Space Policy Institute, SPACE, Earth2Orbit, Team Indus, Signion Systems, MEASAT, GVF, ViaSat, and Aniara Space.
The Dialogue, which is intended to bring together all the different stakeholders to discuss various aspects of outer space including security, governance, societal applications, industry and entrepreneurship, took place in the context of the changing scope, nature and geo-political underpinnings of India’s space programme. The government has decided to utilise space applications for a number of its domestic and international initiatives and a broader all-inclusive space policy with sector specific policies would lead to better implementation of these objectives.
The Dialogue is instituted in the memory of the Indian-American astronaut Dr. Kalpana Chawla whose life and achievements continues to inspire all.
The panel presentations, special addresses and discussions at this Dialogue can be accessed at
This report is prepared by Vidya Sagar Reddy, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi