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Private sector in space was part of 2017 Bill

ISRO scientists working on the orbiter vehicleof 'Chandrayaan-2'.

ISRO scientists working on the orbiter vehicleof 'Chandrayaan-2'.  

Announcement was mentioned in draft

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcement on Saturday of the government’s intention to encourage greater participation of the private sector in a host of space activities already finds mention in a draft Bill by the Department of Space in 2017. This however hasn’t yet made it to Parliament for discussion.

“...There is a need for national space legislation for supporting the overall growth of the space activities in India. This would encourage enhanced participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India, in compliance with international treaty obligations, which is becoming very relevant today,” says the draft Space Activities Bill, 2017.

On Saturday, Ms. Sitharaman said: “The government will provide predictable policy and regulatory environment and allow private sector to use ISRO facilities. Future projects for travel in outer space or exploration of new planets will be open to the private sector. The government will ease geo-spatial data policy to make such remote-sensing data more widely available to tech entrepreneurs, with safeguards put in place.”

The thrust of the 2017 Bill was to evolve a mechanism by which companies or individuals who wanted to be involved in a wide-range of space development activities — satellite development, GIS, telemetry — could approach the government for a licence.

Legislation apart, Ms. Sitharaman in her July 2019 Budget speech had mentioned the creation of a public sector company by ISRO called New Space India Limited. This was similar to its existing company, Antrix, and allows small satellite technology to be transferred to private industry and outsource the development of ISRO’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle to the private sector.

Critics of the Bill have pointed out that it doesn’t have provisions for the creation of an independent space regulator.

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