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India, United States natural partners in space exploration, says US official

The launch of the US-made Nike-Apache sounding rocket in 1963 marked the beginning of the Indian Space programme and thereafter India and US have collaborated on Moon missions, human spaceflight, and much more, said an official from the US Embassy, New Delhi. Drew Schufletowski, Minister Counselor for Economic, Environment, Science, and Technology Affairs, U.S. Embassy, New Delhi, was addressing participants in Chennai, in an event titled, “Space Technology: The Next Business Frontier” hosted by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) and the Indian Space Association (ISpA).

“The greatest growth potential in our space relationship, and those of other Indo-Pacific partners, involve the private sector. India’s space sector is undergoing a transformation with private companies taking on a more influential role in both design and production of launch vehicles, satellites, ground stations, and other elements at the heart of space exploration and applications" he said.

Minister Counselor Schufletowski added, “Indian firms are now building their own satellite constellations for earth observation and designing small launch vehicles to place them into low-Earth orbit. This is where space companies in the United States and across the Indo-Pacific can enhance this commercial sector momentum, through partnerships in trade, investment, and technological collaboration.”

Throwing light on the ongoing development of NISAR(NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar), he said the that $1.5bn project was aimed at observing and measuring some of the earth's most complex phenomena. He also added that the Indian commercial space sector was poised to capture a much larger share of the global space economy. As of today, India has a 2% share of the $469bn global space economy.

Lt Gen Anil Bhatt(retd), Director General of the Indian Space Association(ISpA) said that there are only about seven spacefaring nations in the world, but more than 90 nations have their assets in orbit. He said that innovative technologies and major breakthroughs by private sector firms from across the world have further enhanced commercial uses of space.

Seeking investment, assured access to a market and the void in terms of Space Policy(to get real clarity for carrying out activities), were among the challenges he listed out for the Indian private space industry. He pointed out that India's space sector had largely been controlled and centered around the Indian Government-run space agency ISRO and that the private sector was a new entrant in carrying out end-to-end space activities.

While mentioning the necessity of increased Government support for India's private sector, he also said that the Foreign Direct Investment being legally permitted in India's space sector would also be a major fillip. On the roles and responsibilities of the ISpA, he said that the industry body was meant to work with all stakeholders to create an enabling environment to propel India in the global space domain. He added that the ISpA would be a unified voice for the Indian Space industry, energize businesses, and foster International partnerships, and cooperation, to ensure that India becomes a global hub of the space industry.

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