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Namrata Goswami on India Space Policy 2023.

A deep dive into India's new space policy. India’s strategic shift towards space privatization, from satellite construction to launch vehicles, and its impacts on the global stage.





Our Deep Space guest is Namrata Goswami for an exclusive discussion about India’s new space policy. India's new space policy is driving the privatization of their entire space ecosystem. We delve into the motivations, impacts, and implications of this progressive policy. 

Learn about the strategic shift towards privatization and commercialization of space activities, including satellite construction, launch vehicles, and more, with particular emphasis on civilian space capabilities. Namrata also reviews the response from other global space players, and the ripple effects on India's burgeoning private space sector.

You can follow Namrata on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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>> Maria Varmazis: Welcome to T Minus Deep Space. I'm Maria Varmazis, host of the T Minus Space daily podcast. Into some of the topics that we cover on our daily program. We hope you enjoy. In today's T Minus Deep Space, executive producer Brandon Karpf speaks with Namrata Goswami, strategic analyst and consultant with a focus on space policy. Namrata has an extensive resume covering international relations with a focus on India and China as well as conflict resolution and space policy. She served for nearly a decade at India's Ministry of Defense sponsored think tank the Institute for Defense studies and analyses. And is co-author on a book called Scramble for the Skies, the Great Power Competition to Control the Resources of Outer Space. Namrata walks us through recent developments in India Space Policy, including India's decision to introduce it's first official space policy that emphasizes the privatization of the entire space ecosystem. With a particular focus on the civil sector. Namrata and Brandon also discuss the implications of this shift, including the potential impact on India's military capabilities and it's aspirations to increase it's contribution to the global space economy. Now if you tuned into yesterday's daily show you heard part of this conversation and now here's the conversation in full with Namrata Goswami.

>> Namrata Goswami: If you look at the current state of India's space policy, just this year India came up with an official space policy for the first time actually for India since it established a space program in 1969. So the current focus is to privatize the entire space ecosystem. So the space policy indicates that not only space supply chain will be privatized, by which I mean satellite construction, components for satellite or rockets. But the entire launch vehicles like India's rockets, India's ability to launch all get privatized. And India has established several institutions to support the particular commercialization.

>> Brandon Karpf: So it does not cover both civil as well as military capabilities?

>> Namrata Goswami: It covers more civil as of today. So if you look at the space policy it focuses a lot on privatizing the civilian component, which is the Indian Space Research Organization Component. If you think about the military space capability, which includes the Defense Research Development Organization. That will still remain a government funded program but importantly last year the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, put out a call. A 27 call, what I mean 27 is the 27 list of items that was included, which included communications, navigation, constructional satellites, constructional intelligence, surveillance, recognizance, capability. And he actually called out for the commercial space sector to contribute to the particular defense capability. So I would say that in the next five years we will also see growing privatization of building capability for India's military structure. It hasn't happened as yet.

>> Brandon Karpf: So why now? Why are we seeing these changes in the privatization happening today?

>> Namrata Goswami: I think India woke up to the privatization of space capability when it saw what happened in the US ecosystem in 2015. So in 2015 December, blue origin and space X launched reusable rockets suborbital and orbital and also the growing privatization since then, which was supported by US space policy, which included commercial orbital transportation system. Commercial crew, commercial cargo, public/private partnership. And what happened with that, the contribution, the space economy from the US private sector was very, very high. So since 2015 the consequence of that is that India space ecosystem started introspecting. And arguing that India's contribution to the global space economy is about 1% at that time, and including today. And the ambition is to scale it up to about 9% by 2030. And by 2030 the global economy will be $1 trillion. Today it's about $400 billion. So the change happened since then, but actual institutional change that actually was brought about by the Indian government occurred around 2019. When they established a new Space India Limited. And this also means that the Indian private ecosystem is getting mature. There are companies that have started demonstrating capability including launching suborbital rockets. And so the shift happens since 2019. And today I think because there was a big push from the private space sector, that for India to be able to thrive in the global space economy, it needs to privatize. It needs to create regulation that supports that kind of privatization and more importantly it needs to establish institutions within India that supports that particular change. So that's the context of why this change has been brought about. It's been in the making for five years and today you see end result of that with the Indian Space Policy.

>> Brandon Karpf: Got it. So it sounds a bit like global competition and economic development as two of the driving factors. Is, is national security a consideration here as well?

>> Namrata Goswami: National security is a big consideration. Because if you look at the drivers for India's space program over all, one includes economic development, two includes contribution to India's regional leadership. That by which I mean using space for diplomatic purposes. And the final driver is national security. And India woke up to that particular aspect in 2007 when China tests a supplied weapon. By which China showcased India that India space capability can be destroyed if there is an escalation and conflict. And as you know India and China has border disputes, territorial disputes and so yeah, national security is a big part and since 2007 India has taken decisions to establish it's military space capability including testing and anti-supplied weapon in 2019. Interestingly, the space policy itself does not talk about the development of national security, it talks about the development of national development and to understand that you have to go beyond the Indian official space policy. You have to see that the Indian Prime Minister talked about the development of space power of Indian tested of anti-supplied weapon. And then last year as I said called out for the development of defense space capability. And then in 2019 India established a defense based agency very similar to the United States space force under the Indian Air Force. And so yes, to answer your question National Security is playing a key contributing factor in India's development of space power.

>> Brandon Karpf: Since these recent developments, have we seen a reaction or response from the other key placers in the international order? Of course I'm thinking of course the US, China, the EU, even Japan?

>> Namrata Goswami: I think if you look at how for example, the US - let's take the US, European Union and the - and Japan. So India, US, Japan, and Australia are part of the quadrilateral security dialog, that has now included space collaboration and building of space capability. So you can see that this particular push for privatization is also going to help India in contributing to the regional level and the global level of space situational awareness, space domain awareness as well as launching. So and from the US side you see that just recently India and the US had a very high level space dialog in which the Indian Space Research Organization chairperson and the NASA Administrative were present. And both agreed again to collaborate in key technologies, one is space. And in space concepts like quantum computing, India's contribution to lunar space development and space situational awareness were included. So you see that there is a response to that kind of privatization. And then finally from Japan side just focus particularly on Japan. Japan and India already has deep space collaboration. India and Japan are going to the moon together. I think in 2025 to the south pole of the moon with a resource prospector as well. And then India and Japan are also key collaborators in terms of ensuring that the Indopacific remains a free and open and space has been included. So there is already a response to the kind of change that India space policy capability has put forward, and also demonstrating it. Which is really important for partnerships.

>> Brandon Karpf: Any response from China?

>> Namrata Goswami: I think on the Chinese side what is important is that China basically has - so if you think about China's relation to India, it's really important to put it within the larger context of geopolitics, right? So China and India have collaborative relationships, has a very important economic development partnership. China and India has established mechanisms to insure that escalation of conflict doesn't occur. And this is important because China and India are both nuclear weapon states, and share borders that are disputed. Now when you look at China's reaction to the Indian capability for example, to go to Mars. The first Asian nation to do so India's development of an anti-supplied weapon capability. India's development of intelligence surveillance and recognizance and the growing collaboration of the United States. The reaction is of concern and strategic concern. Because China now views India as part of a larger global revealing alliance that is themselves, concerned with China's asserted behavior when it comes to territorial disputes or space. So there is concern about where India's space capability will be used. And how that might be used to limit China's own desire for global leadership in space by 2049. So you see such concerns coming in. And also you'll see a push by China to indicate to India that a world where India maintains strategic autonomy does not get too close to US land international or space order is perhaps to India's benefit. So there is something going on as well.

>> Brandon Karpf: So understanding that India and Russia still have a fairly close trade relationship, is there any reflections on the new space policy and the impacts on the relationship between Russia and India, as well as the relationship between the US and India on that front?

>> Namrata Goswami: I think when you look at the new space policy, the basic trust of the new space policy is to clarify to India's own private sector that these are the institutions that are in place. For example, the new space India Limited. The Indian Space Authorization Agency that gives off licenses. And then it also makes it very clear that the Indian Space Research Organization is not going to do manufacturing anymore, but is going to move on to complete research and development, which is itself an amazing development in this space ecosystem. Now in terms of signaling about any relationship in the US, you don't see that reflected in the, in the space policy per se. But then you also see that India has made international collaboration a key factor in terms of what is the vision for India's space policy? So there are a few key visions. One is National Development. One is Development of India's own Internal Private Sector, and three India focuses on international partnerships to ensure that the development of space is for peaceful purposes. So in the larger conceptual framing you can see that the space policy is in support of development of relationship for example with the US or Japan. And it does not mention China and so I don't see that reflected. But in the final analysis I'll say that if you think about one of the key developments in the space policy document itself, for the first time India has made their position very clear about the utilization of space resources. So you know in international law there is still difference of opinion as to whether a country can mine resources for example on the moon and who owns it, right? So the outer space treaty says that you cannot appropriate, you cannot claim sovereignty but does not stop utilization. So the Indian position is very clear now that if an Indian citizen or an Indian company is able to go and extract resources for example, say on the south pole of the moon, Indian space policy will support the particular company to keep those resources, own it and profit from it. Now this position is very similar with the US commercial space launch competitive fact Japan space mining law and Luxemburg Space Mining Law as well. So you can see that India is signaling that it has similar perspective when it comes to space resources for the United States and Japan and Luxemburg, which means that collaboration in the future in this key strategic technology will become much more foreseeable.

>> We'll be right back after this quick break.

>> Brandon Karpf: That makes sense then. So sort of clarifying to the private sector that they will be backed up by the state itself when it comes to those technologies and potential future business models. Is that kind of the through line there?

>> Namrata Goswami: Yes that's exactly the - the trust of the space policy. So because there was [inaudible] that India's space policy and regulations were not clear, and also what is critical Brandon is that the Indian Space Policy document enables private direct investment in space development and capability, which means it is signaling to, for example hypothetically to the United States investor community that India space private sector is now open for indirect investment, which is again an amazing development, because India after all has some of the most advanced space launch capability and can also do it very cost effectively. Right? The manufacturing of a rocket in India is much cheaper than say in the United States. So there you see signaling again happening.

>> Brandon Karpf: Bringing it down to the tactical level then how have we seen that changing, or impacting these businesses? Do we see investors, foreign investors coming in you know, local investors building up their capabilities? Do we see businesses ramping up to take advantage of these new opportunities?

>> Namrata Goswami: Great questions. So since 2019 India has been able to develop space start ups. For example, you already have start ups developing technologies like propulsion, space based solar power while transmission of energy building apps, supported by supplied support for helping farming and agriculture. And also India has now, has a private company called Oxium India that is planning to build low earth orbit constellations to build satellite internet. So since the shift in 2019, and I wasn't, I went to field work in India in 2017, where the biggest complaint of the new space start up companies was that because of a lack of clear demarcation of responsibility and institutions the investment climate was slow. But now with clarification, with the Indian government, putting funding for developing their space start ups, I see us scaling up. The official space policy came up last month, so it will take us a little bit of time to see what impact it has in terms of foreign direct investment. But if I think about the other economies that India had opened up, for example information technology, you say that the moment India took a decision to have foreign direct investment, the investment scaled up, right? So I would say a similar trajectory but we'll have to give it a year or two to see the impact of that.

>> Brandon Karpf: Maybe we can read in a year or two and kind of do a re-assessment once the - the engines are fully revved and taken off.

>> Namrata Goswami: Yes, yes. I mean there is this, this space policy will energize the development of the commercial space sector. And what is interesting is that I think the push for enabling foreign direct investment also came from the private sector. And so the private sector wants to play a global role because it sees case as a global industry. And so I think, I think we will only see scaling up in that regard.

>> Brandon Karpf: So then looking forward towards that scaling, are there any specific sub segments of the industry or technologies or businesses that you're particularly excited about that you think will really accelerate in the near future?

>> Namrata Goswami: I think one that I cam excited about is the focus of the Indian Space Development not just the space policy, but those policies that was put out say in 2017, 2016. In the websites of the Indian State funded institution. One technology is reusable capability, right? And so I'm excited about that because India has successfully tested you know, [inaudible] synchronous orbit capability. India has a heavy lift rocket and now with the focus and the scaling up of reusable capability I'm excited about that because that capability will, if developed bring down the cost of launch even more than say a US manufactured capability. And also enable a lot of us to actually contribute the space sector. And so I'm excited about that. The second technology that I'm excited about that some of the Indian space start ups are focusing on for example, a start up called REBIM, which is on wireless transmission of technology. So one of the technologies that the former head of India's - India, President of [inaudible] who is no more now. He pushed for the development of a concept called space based solar power, which is the ability to collect solar energy in space and transmit it back to earth. And because it's 24 hours, it's reusable technology that is very advantageous. China has a national program on it and now you see that Indian commercial sector is looking at the, not the building of the satellite itself, bout actually how do you transmit the technology through microwave, right? And so that is a technology I'm excited about. Because if you can scale it up, that's going to contribute to the global push for the development of space based solar power. The United Kingdom just announced a program on space based solar power. The European Space Agency has come up with space based solar power feasibility study. In the US you have Air Force Research Laboratory that has an experiment on space based solar power called Spider. So if an Indian ecosystem can support the development of the transmission capability, that will contribute to the development of the technology. And I'm excited about the technology. Because that will mean nine billion of us by 2050 will have access to clean and renewable energy with a developed world lifestyle.

>> Brandon Karpf: And truly a global technology that is developed globally across a number of different companies and capabilities. That's, and that's a fascinating technology area.

>> Namrata Goswami: It is, it is. And with global - and we need global collaboration because as I see this technology moving forward, I was recently in Australia. There is an interest in Australia as well to support space based solar power. The United Arab Emirates is showing interest, Saudi Arabia just signed an agreement with the United Kingdom, so you see that technology like that will require global collaboration. And India contributing to it with it's own private sector will mean that we will have a technology that is globally developed with global positive benefits, which is what is the hope for space, right? And so -

>> Brandon Karpf: Space for all.

>> Namrata Goswami: Yeah I think the one thing that I, in terms of India space policy I would say that while you have a space policy that clarifies the institutions of where the private sector needs to go, where do you get licensing? Similar to the US process of where do you go for licensing? How do you develop support control? I think what was missing in the Indian space policy document was that why was India investing in this kind of capability? Beyond just national development, which was not clarified. So was India going to have a lunar mission? Was India going to announce a resource prospecting mission for example to the lunar south pole? Was India going to develop a national security architecture that is going to collaborate for example, with the United States? So those kind of vision statements, those space policy documents should come up with was not clarified and clear. And I think that still leaves room for ambiguity and interpretations, right? And so I think that's what I would like to end with. That space policy document that India might put out, say next year should be much more clearer as to why is India developing the space capabilities at all? What are the long term missions that India is actually focusing on that support this kind of upscaling of commercial development of space?

>> Brandon Karpf: If you had your say, what is the why? Why should they be developing these? And what, what are the programs that they should be focused on?

>> Namrata Goswami: I think when I look at how the world is evolving, so I would say that first of all the Indian space policy document should very clearly state that this is about space development and utilization. That's where Japan is going. That's where the US signaling it's going. That's where other countries are going. So one that space is about economic development. And not just traditional goals of satellite launch and low earth orbit communication, navigation capability. So one very clearly state that this is about the development of space. That space is an economic ram. The second important mission that India doesn't seem to have announced at a national level is the development of space based solar power, right? So while a commercial company is developing microwave transmission capability, India does not have a national level program on space based solar power. And very surprisingly missing from a country where renewable energy and any kind of renewable energy is going to be extremely crucial. India has the largest population in the world today and will have the largest number of families and households to feed by 2050. So I'm surprised it does not have. So that's a program that India needs to develop. And then finally I think when India talks about for example, developing a lunar capability and scaling it up to go to study asteroids and mars, why? Why is India wanting to go there? So I would say that if I think about some of the conversations I hear, for example in Japan or in the US it's a lot about lunar resources like Helium three, waterize, which can be developed into oxygen and building the moon itself as a pitstop to go to deep space. So while Indian space scientists have talked about helium three as a key fuel for nuclear propulsion and India is a nuclear power, right? You know that right? And so India already has a nuclear program. By which I mean a civilian nuclear program and a military nuclear program. And India is collaborating with the United States in civil nuclear capabilities since George W. Bush assigned the nuclear deal in 2005. So a program that looks at the moon from not just going there and showcasing technology, but for long term sustained permanent development of lunar resources is a program I think India should focus on. And by that I mean that I have seen that what China has done is very interesting. It has pointed out that it's investment in space based solar power investment in , lunar resources, investment in asteroid exploration, is interestingly building Indian - sorry Chinese skill sets and Chinese scientific temper and education that supports the kind of upscaling. And so India lacks that. And I think India needs to have a - have a focus on space resources. It doesn't have it today.

>> Brandon Karpf: Sure, well so India's space policy creating economic opportunity and global collaboration sounds like it's moving in the right direction.

>> Namrata Goswami: It is. I'm very happy that India came up with an official space policy because that was one of the biggest critique for India. That India does not come up with clear identification of why is it at all wanting privatization? What are the institutional mechanisms? And as you know India does not have ITAR, the International Traffic on Arms Regulation. But it does have explored control issues when it comes to high end technology. So clarifying that, enabling for indirect investment is a great step forward. Now we need to have the vision statement. But you know you have to start somewhere, so I'm happy that India put out a space policy.

>> Brandon Karpf: Yeah, well Namrata Goswami, thank you so much for joining me today.

>> Namrata Goswami: Thank you for having me.

>> And that's it for T Minus Deep Space for Saturday May 20, 2023. And we'd love to know what you think of our show. You can email us at space@n2k.com or submit a survey in our show notes. Your feedback insures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in this rapidly Changing space industry. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth, mixing by Elliot Helsman and Trey Hester with original music and sound design by Elliot Helsman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf. Our Chief Intelligence Officer is Eric Tillman and I'm Maria Varmazis, thanks for listening.

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