Legal framework on space activities could help India build capacity outside the world


Union Minister Jitendra Singh during the monsoon session this year said the Space Activities Bill is under government consideration

India’s space program is almost six decades old, but India does not yet have a space law governing its space activities.

So far, there is a government monopoly in the Indian space sector, which is mainly run by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). For a long time, the private sector has repeatedly called for the opening of the Indian space program so that even companies can invest in building India’s space capabilities. But no major changes have been sustained so far, and the space program continues to be under the monopoly of the government.

The Space Activities Bill 2017 was an attempt by the Indian government to make a big change in terms of India’s space policies.

CONTEXT

The genesis of the Indian space program began in 1962 when Dr Vikram Sarabhai, considered the father of the Indian space program, established the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR).

The then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, knew the potential of rocket science and therefore understood the need for a sound policy on space affairs. Under his leadership, INCOSPAR paved the way for the birth of the Indian space program on November 21, 1963, when the first sounding rocket was launched from the Thumba equatorial rocket launch station at Trivandrum (now Thiruvananthapuram) in Kerala.

India had only started to take small steps to build its space program in a world where then superpowers like the United States and the Soviet Union were engulfed in the space race. The Soviets had started the race with the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957 while the United States responded by building a strong institution like NASA in 1958 dedicated to establishing American supremacy in space. Indian leaders knew that for a newly independent third world nation like India, the establishment of a space program would ensure that India finds a rightful place for itself in the community of nations.

HISTORY OF LAWS ON SPACE

In the 1960s, when outer space really gained the world’s attention due to the intensification of space activity as a result of the Cold War space rivalry between the United States and the Soviets, the Lawmakers began to feel the need to develop international law that would govern the space activities of each member country of the United Nations.

The need for such international law arose out of the fear of “militarization of space” by the superpowers. The world had not forgotten the serious impact of the atomic bomb, dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States during World War II. It was the absence of international nuclear disarmament law that gave way to the incidents of the use of nuclear weapons in 1945 by the United States against Japan. Therefore, the world could not have afforded a nuclear weapon attack from space or the moon by either of the superpowers that were engaged in a bitter space rivalry in the mid-1960s.

As a result, in January 1967, the Outer Space Treaty was first opened for signature by the three depositary governments which included the USSR, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Later that year, the treaty entered into force, providing a basic framework for international space law. India was a signatory to this treaty and ratified it along with the signing of the Moon Treaty in 1982 (also known as the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies). Apart from this, India acceded to the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects in 1979 and the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space in 1982.

INDIAN SPACE LAWS

Space activities in India have been fully governed by the Space Department since its inception in 1972 and prior to this Atomic Energy Department handled all administrative activities of the Indian space program. There has never been a felt need to have a national space law or policy in India until recently, as outer space was seen more as an area of ​​international concern than an area of ​​international concern. national issue.

The usefulness of having a spatial law has never been realized for many reasons. First, India did not have a private sector with the intention or willingness to invest in India’s space ambitions. It was only after the private sector saw the potential of India’s space program, built entirely on taxpayer dollars, that it has today stepped forward and shown its willingness to invest in the program. .

Second, for a long time the Indian space program did not seek to explore space or send unmanned or even manned missions into space. This has now changed with India sending missions to Mars successfully and to the Moon with some success. On top of that, ISRO’s Gaganyaan mission, which is to send India’s first manned mission to outer space, has been a paradigm shift in terms of attracting new players like small entrepreneurs wishing to participate in such missions. This did not exist until the last two years. Indian policymakers were of the opinion that India is a party to almost all international space law is good enough and that national space law is not a necessity.

Today things have changed dramatically. Last year, in May 2020, the Indian government proposed sweeping changes to India’s space program. Critics have argued that in the midst of a global pandemic, the government was seeking to privatize India’s space program. This claim has been thwarted by the President of the Indian Space Program, Dr K Sivan on several occasions.

On June 24, 2020, the Indian government established a new organization known as IN-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center). IN-SPACe is a “one-stop-shop nodal agency” created to stimulate the commercialization of Indian space activities. It was thanks to the creation of this body that the debate around the privatization of the Indian space program had started.

This Indian government had also developed a draft space communication policy India-2020 (Spacecom Policy-2020) and a draft standards, guidelines and procedures for the implementation of the Spacecom-2020 policy (Spacecom NGP-2020 ).

SpaceCom 2020 policy aims to do two things. First, the policy will regulate the commercial use of satellites, orbital slots and ground stations for communication purposes. This policy also speaks of the way in which private actors can obtain the authorization to install new communication satellites and ground stations.

Private players in the space communications sector will also enable India to keep pace with the growing demand for satellite broadcasting, network connectivity and global mobile personal communication.

Amid debates over the privatization of India’s space program, Space Policy 2020 and the Space Activities Bill, 2017 are in the final stages of becoming law. Union Minister Jitendra Singh at the monsoon session of parliament this year said the space activities bill was under government consideration. According to a report published in the bright mintIn a written response to a question posed to Rajya Sabha, “the Minister of State for Atomic Energy and the Department of Space said the government was creating an ecosystem to encourage private participation in the industry. ‘space and in the indigenous production of space technology, devices and services’. To conclude, Indian space laws are about to happen and there for a long time.

Martand Jha is a freelance writer and senior researcher at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is currently writing his doctoral thesis on the subject “A Historical Study of India’s Space Cooperation with the United States and the USSR, 1957-1991”.


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