DQ: What are some of the challenges that the Indian space sector faces at present?
Lt Gen AK Bhatt: The Space industry in India, after the announcement of the Government to open the space domain to private industry, is emerging as a key sector, with the current developments indicating that the industry has significant potential to contribute to India’s target of becoming a 5-trillion economy. Spearheaded by the prestigious Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the country’s Space mission has traversed a long journey by undertaking competitive space programs for India as well as its partner countries.
With the changing market dynamics and technology revolution across the communications and space industries, the demand for space-based services in India and globally is also increasing. The sector is in the nascent stage where the possibilities are limitless with a scope to build a feasible business model. However, to continue the growth engine, more investors need to look up to the sector as the next booming sector.
So there is a need for a legislative bill along with a comprehensive policy framework that enables activities relating to spacecom, remote sensing, satellite navigation, space transportation, human space light, transfer of technology, FDI human resource management and ground infrastructure for its utilization and along with financial enablers. Moreover, more awareness needs to be created about the demands of the global and domestic space industry so that relevant start-ups can step forward.
DQ: What are some of the reforms needed in academia to encourage more students are enabled to make a career for themselves in the space sector?
Lt Gen AK Bhatt: Skilled and Experienced Human Resources would form the foundational backbone of our emerging Space Economy. Given the limitless opportunities that come to the table with the opening of the Space Sector, there is a pressing need to strengthen our HR capabilities. This would include setting up dedicated institutions which help train and skill our students in the various areas which would include the entire life-cycle of activities linked to the space domain. This would include pure science, technology, management as well as humanities segment.
Our engineering and technical institutions would need to introduce space-related verticals as well as upgrade and update existing syllabus, labs and technical facilities to support Skilled HR creation. We as a nation would need to invest in both in quality as well as quantity, given the scope and dimensions of our Space Aspirations.
The retired technical HR from ISRO, DRDO, HAL and other tech labs would be an important component of this effort. Institutional tie-ups with foreign universities with known expertise in the Space Domain would add value to fill gaps in our existing education and skilling eco-system.
Space requires the best quality engineering precision. This makes it essential that we follow stringent quality control standards during skilling from the ground up.
Cross pollination of knowledge and wisdom is necessary for ensuring that students are given adequate comprehensive exposure during their learning stage. In this regard, introducing multi-disciplinary aspects in the curriculum could add value.
For all of the above to happen, it’s important that we catch the potential talent at a very young stage. Some of the possible options could include the inclusion of the following:-
(a) Introducing inspiring stories linked to space in History Books.
(b) Chapters on Economic value of Space and geospatial technology.
(c) Chapters giving good overview of Space Domain along with career options in the same.
(d) Project works focussed on Space / geospatial technology at various stages. Encouraging students to use open source GIS software and open imagery including ISRO imagery (freely available) for local area mapping by students. They could also be encouraged to bring new ideas where they could this technology to address local problems.
(e) Retired ISRO officers could help create online PM eVIDYA: One Nation One Digital Platform for universal free access for students.
(f) Greater Support of AI-driven solutions that leverage multi-disciplinary geospatial technology including Space-based Remote Sensing.
DQ: How is ISpA contributing to the Indian Government's goal of making India the global leader in the space arena?
Lt Gen AK Bhatt: ISpA aims to be an advocate and enabler for private and public sector engagement, growth, and capacity building in India's space domain. We will work with the Indian government, regulatory entities, and national and international organizations to achieve this goal along with other stakeholders and also participate in formulating effective, efficient and appropriate policies and, regulatory frameworks for ease of doing business and policy stability. The association also aspires to foster awareness and promotion of design, manufacture, launch, operation, and R&D of space-related equipment like launch vehicles, satellites, payloads, Ground & Space Control Systems, testing and linked industrial infrastructure etc.
ISpA will support Indian startups and established companies in the space domain and act as a unified voice and bridge in the Indian space industry for ensuring and enabling policy frameworks. We will facilitate the creation of a healthy collaborative business climate and provide a strong platform for all Space industry stakeholders to cooperate, to identify areas of mutual growth and sustainability, and if need be, look for joint ventures. ISpA also seeks to concentrate on establishing global links for the Indian space sector in order to attract more international and domestic investments and develop vital technology in order to create more high-skilled jobs.
DQ: Anything else that you would like to add?
Lt Gen AK Bhatt: We intend to build a pan India footprint and look forward to setting up chapters in major cities where space-related activities are being undertaken. Today, the global space sector contributes more than $371 billion, with India accounting for only around 2.6% of it. We need to build a robust infrastructure for more and more investments in space technologies and encourage the indigenous manufacturing of components to make a mark at the global level and become a global hub for space domain activities around the world.
Lt Gen AK Bhatt had also spoken to Dataquest at an event last month, and the video interview of the same is as follows: