A 2020 change in government policy towards the private space sector is bearing fruit, having opened up the aerospace subsector to private firms and startups.

Boyden's perspectives on the news and trends that are transforming industries

The first private company in India to launch a rocket, Skyroot Aerospace, achieved the feat on November 18 with the support of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Less than 10 days later, satellite imaging startup Pixxel sent a satellite into space on a rocket launched by the ISRO. The government agency launched two nanosatellites from aerospace manufacturer Dhruva Space the same day. Agnikul Cosmos plans to launch a rocket in late December. Many more are waiting in the wings.

India has been sending rockets and satellites into space for decades, and the ISRO is one of only six government space agencies in the world with full launch capabilities and large fleets of satellites in operation. The country has also established itself as a high-quality resource for low-cost space research. Yet India’s space sector remains a small one. With annual revenues of about $10 billion, it comprises only 2% of the total global space economy. This could change sooner than expected.

The current surge in India’s space sector stems from a 2020 policy change overturning restrictions on private firms. Previously they could serve only as suppliers to the ISRO. Now the ISRO is transitioning to the role of a provider of research, technology and facilities as well as aerospace talent, The Economist reports. A new agency, the Indian National Space Promotion Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), is managing the transition.

These developments have opened the floodgates, with over 150 firms applying to manufacture payloads, rockets and components. Others want to develop ground stations or work with space data. New innovations and cost efficiencies could benefit companies far outside India. Global giants, some from big tech, are showing interest in Indian expertise in software and data analysis. A rich, relatively untapped talent pool is revealing itself.

Investors are taking note as well, and in November Skyroot received a $50 million infusion from the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC. Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Rocketship.vc and an existing investor invested $20 million in Agnikul. Pawan Goenka, former Managing Director of Mahindra and Mahindra and current chairperson of IN-SPACe, the space industry regulator, expects more money and new entrants. India’s space industry appears set for a stratospheric rise.

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