Space missions can no longer be looked at as a luxury. They dictate everything from last-mile broadband connectivity to navigation to monitoring the weather. However, space exploration is currently isolated as a mandate under the Department of Space. “There are vast, unmapped possibilities for additional cross-sectoral and inter-ministerial collaborations involving space exploration,” explained Giri.He recommends that ministries should identify their areas of interest in space exploration to initiate a back-and-forth between various departments, the private sector and public sector units to deliver and commercialise space technologies.India currently imports more than 80% of its precision scientific instruments. The import dependency could have disastrous effects on India’s R&D labs if exporting nations decide to increase their prices, impose sanctions, or if supply chain disruptions come into play due to wars or pandemics.“The space agency should encourage indigenous commercialisation of precious instruments used in building payloads for space missions,” says Giri. Not only would that reduce India’s dependency on other countries, but it would also be a boost for the domestic economy while allowing the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to keep costs low for more complex space exploration missions.The US and China are currently caught in a war over supremacy in global telecommunications. This isn’t limited to Earth but also involves Deep Space Networks (DSNs). “Typically, a DSN is a triad of large radio communication antennae that are placed at angles of 120 degrees from each other all around the Earth,” explained Giri. As the planet rotates, the antennae communicate with interplanetary spacecraft without interruption.Indian satellite-launch vehicles and satellites are currently dependent on ground-based services. For most of their major missions — including Chandrayaan 1, Mars Orbiter Mission and Chandrayaan 2 — ISRO relied on NASA’s DSN triad across California, Spain and Australia.“India, therefore, must initiate diplomatic engagements with friendly countries in the eastern andwestern hemispheres that can host two DSN antennae for it in addition to an existing 32-metre antenna located in Byalalu near Bengaluru,” recommends Giri. With these antennae in place, it will be able to establish independent communications capabilities for distant interplanetary missions.Currently, the Department of Space has special research labs called ‘Space Cells’ but their scope is limited to what ISRO needs. “To overcome this deficiency, the Space Commission should form new ‘Advanced Space Concepts Laboratories’ (ASCL) with non-DoS public or private entities and ecosystems,” said Giri — just like the US, Europe and Japan, which currently lead the world in space technology.Nirmala Sitharaman already announced that ISRO’s testing facilities will now be opened up to private players and that the space agency will also be sharing its treasure trove of geospatial data. While that may facilitate private sector participation, it’s still a long way from having them actively participate in the research and development process.In order to encourage private sector participation, the government needs to incentivise them by providing risk coverage and legal support. Giri recommends tax deductions on capital expenditure on R&D activities, tax holidays of successful output and relief to space startups.