India’s space agency creates new bureaucracy to encourage commercial space

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

The new colonial movement: In a televised speech yesterday, the head of ISRO, India’s space agency, outlined the steps they are now taking to encourage a new private commercial space industry, which appear centered almost entirely around the creation of a new bureaucracy.

Sivan announced in detail, reforms intended for the space sector, which were approved by the Cabinet Wednesday. The prime change, the ISRO chief said, is that the private sector will no longer be confined to just supplying components but will now be able to build and launch satellites and rockets, provide launch services, perform intensive research and developmental activities, participate in ISRO’s science and planetary missions, and offer space services commercially.

To facilitate the private sector presence in ISRO, the agency has launched the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), an independent nodal agency, Sivan said. “The agency will ensure safety, security, and quality, engage in monitoring space business activity, enable ease of business at low cost for private players, ensure permission and authorisation of private activities,” he said. “It will also act as a nodal agency for hand-holding and promoting private sector in space endeavours, aiding ISRO to share technical expertise and facilities.” [emphasis mine]

This might work, but I have my doubts. While the first paragraph in the quote above sounds great, the second quote kind of blows the wind out of the sails. Rather than letting their private companies operate independently, ISRO is going to supervise them closely. Under such conditions it is unlikely an independent space industry building cutting edge and risky new technology can truly prosper. If ISRO does not like what a private company wants to do, all it will have to do is simply not give them permission to do it.


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  • Tom Billings

    “Rather than letting their private companies operate independently, ISRO is going to supervise them closely.”

    This is the *best* we can expect from “The Babu State”, that is the operational arm of government in India. This much is probably the result of epic battles/bargaining inside the bureaucracy.

    It could have been worse. Remember that Indira Gandhi had a KGB handler at her side for around 2 decades. The Bureaucracy blossomed from its size under the Raj throughout the reign of the Congress Party. During that time government control of private technical development latched down tight!

    “If ISRO does not like what a private company wants to do, all it will have to do is simply not give them permission to do it.”

    As is the norm with any imperial bureaucracy, …which is exactly what India is still burdened with. The Babus have run India for each succeeding Empire since the time of Asoka. India’s people *do* have more say today than at any time in their history, but the agency costs of “The Babu State” remain, and the process of cutting it down is tortuously slow.

  • David M. Cook

    Unless this bureaucracy is willing to grant (not loan!) hard money to any start-up company, they will only be an impediment to private space development. Only a fool would invest where there is no true freedom of decision-making.

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