The reforms introduced in the country's space sector is not aimed at privatising the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Chairman of the space agency S. Somanath has said. He was speaking after inaugurating the eighth and the ninth biennial conference of the ISRO Pensioners' Association held together here on Friday.
''There is a fear that the ISRO is about to be sold off. But the reforms process is not intended as a privatisation programme. We know that today, it runs fully on government funding, which means the limit of government funding will be the limit of our growth. But if private companies come in, it will expand the space economy,'' he said.
The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), meant to regulate and support private players, became fully active last month. Around 50 proposals are in different stages of approval. ''This is a beginning,'' he said.
ISRO labs and test facilities will be shared with private players and the industry will have a greater role, but the ISRO will still hold the reins of technology, management and clearances. Such an arrangement will enable the ISRO to work on new technologies, said Mr. Somanath. ''In no way will our workload or responsibility diminish,'' he added.
Chief Secretary of Kerala V. P. Joy, a former ISRO hand, delivered the keynote address. It would be better to replace the term 'pensioners' with 'former employees' as they are still capable of contributing to society, said Mr. Joy.
Two ISRO veterans – former ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair and former director of the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) R. V. Perumal – were honoured at the event. Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) director S. Unnikrishnan Nair, LPSC director V. Narayanan, Satish Dhawan Space Centre (Sriharikota) director A. Rajarajan, ISRO Pensioners' Association president P. Reghupalan and general secretary Johnson S. Fernandez spoke.
The second general council meeting of the Federation of the ISRO-DOS Retirees' Associations (FIDRA) will be held on April 23 and 24.