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It is proposed that all powers to licence private players to launch and operate “space objects” will rest with the Union government (read DoS). And these powers will be quite sweeping. DoS will not only have powers to “grant, transfer, vary, suspend or terminate licence” but also have powers to inspect books of accounts and other documents of licensees and seek all information about partners, directors, etc.
This is particularly worrying because “space activity” under this proposed law not only covers launch of satellites but also “use of space objects” as well as “operation, guidance and entry of space object into and from outer space and all functions for performing the said activities.” This would technically mean even data companies handling satellite imagery or universities operating ground facilities for their microsatellites may also need a licence. If this is going to be so, it is a recipe for a new “licence raj”.
The writer is of course correct. The law as written gives all power and control to India’s government and its bureaucracy, a sure recipe for discouraging private enterprise. However, this writer also avoids the law’s worst component, that it places ownership of all space objects — rockets, satellites, and what they produce — with the government, not the private sector. Such a rule will not only squelch any commercial space development in India, it will likely cause private companies outside of India from buying India’s launch services. Why would I place my satellite on an Indian rocket if that country’s law means I will then no longer own it?