ISRO treasure trove of testing facilities and data will now be open to startups and private players

Indian government opens up ISRO's treasure trove of testing facilities and data for the private sectorISRO

  • Finance Minister said the government will level the playing field for private companies in satellites, launches and space-based services
  • This will be a big boost for the likes of Kawa Space, Bellatrix, Dhruva Space, and Team Indus.
  • According to DataLabs by Inc42, there are about 120 active startups working in the space sector right now.
The Indian government just told the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) to give startups and private players access to geospatial data and testing facilities⁠. This could mean that space projects could potentially get cheaper for Indian startups, according to India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

“A lot of startups and individuals have spent time developing space-related technologies. Unfortunately because of Indian regulations, they have been unable to use ISRO’s available facilities for even testing their products,” she said.

The big boost for startups
According to DataLabs by Inc42, there are about 120 active startups working in the space sector right now. And, most of them emerged in or after 2014. As of 2019, their cumulative funding stood at $6.2 million.
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This includes some big names like Bellatrix, Dhruva Space, and Team Indus. Other’s like Kawa Space is even providing space-as-a-service — a change in real estate models from asset ownership to monetisation of access and services that include physical space.

Reforms announced include levelling the playing field for private companies in satellites, launches and space-based services by introducing predictable policy and regulator environment to private players. “We want them to co-travellers with us, which is why the private sector is being encouraged,” Sitharaman explained.

Private sector players will now be allowed to use ISRO facilities and other relevant assets to improve their capacities. In addition, future projects for planetary exploration, outer space travel will be open to the private sector.
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ISRO treasure trove of data
Startups will also now have access to the treasure trove of data with ISRO as geospatial data policies become liberalised to provide remote-sensing data to tech-entrepreneurs.

“There’s a lot of geospatial data in India for Indians, particularly for startups looking to do irrigation work, drought-prone area development work, groundwater work — they don’t most often get the data within India. They get from abroad, paying through their nose for the good work that they do for India itself,” she said.

However, the government will only be doing so with a lot of caution balancing the sensitivity of the sector against the advantage that’s at stake for Indian startups who are also doing pioneering work.
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