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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