Govt. envisages ‘space city’ tag for Kerala Capital: CM
Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the State Government is planning to build a world-class space technology ecosystem in Thiruvananthapuram.
‘New Space – Opportunities and Way Forward’ was the theme of the international conclave on Space Technology, EDGE 2020 held in Thiruvananthapuram
“By collaborating with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and all the other organisations in the space sector, both in the State and the country, we would like to build a world-class space technology ecosystem so that the capital city of God’s Own Country would be known as the ‘space city’ of India,” the Chief Minister said.
He was speaking after inaugurating the two-day international conclave on Space Technology, EDGE 2020, organised by India’s first Space Park under Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL) with the backing of industry and domain leaders, including ISRO, in Thiruvananthapuram recently.
‘New Space – Opportunities and Way Forward’ was the theme of the event, which was held at Raviz Beach Resort at Kovalam.
“We have chosen space technology as a key industry vertical. Presence of nearly 45 per cent of scientific pool of ISRO and the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST), the country’s only space and science technology institution having deemed university status, makes the Kerala capital quite a unique place suitable for developing smart space-tech ecosystem,” Pinarayi Vijayan said.
“We are also committed to invest in Industry 4.0 technologies like blockchain, fintech, medical technologies, cyber security for financial services, augmented reality/virtual reality and space technology,” he added.
In his keynote address, Dr. Arabinda Mitra, Scientific Secretary, Office of Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to the Government of India, said the global space industry looks towards India due to the cost-effective and innovative initiatives of ISRO. “India’s economy is highly dependent on its space resources, which need to be utilised for optimal benefit. Private sector partnership and investment are the need of the hour to help tap the potential,” he said.
“We have launched an initiative called Agni, which is for accelerating the growth of innovation-enabling mechanism of R&D labs, connecting startups to industry and industry to academic institutions. Another initiative, City Knowledge and Innovation Cluster, targets big and smaller tier-2 cities. We have launched this in four mega city clusters. We are also happy to extend this to Kerala,” Mitra added.
M Sivasankar IAS, Principal Secretary, Electronics and IT, Govt. of Kerala, who welcomed the gathering, said the presence of a vibrant startup ecosystem is a big plus for the State in making a mark in the field of space technology.
Catherine Suard, Consul General of France in India; Rashed Khamis Al Shemeili, Charge d’affaires of Consulate General of UAE; Sarah Fallon, Head of Science and Innovation, British High Commission; Roy M Cheriyan, Deputy Director, VSSC; and M C Dathan, Scientific Advisor to Chief Minister, Govt. of Kerala were also present. Santhosh Kurup, Special Officer, Space Park, proposed the vote of thanks.
‘Gaganyaan’ to help Open Up Space Sector: Former ISRO Chairman
Gaganyaan, India’s planned mission to take humans to space, will be the next frontier for the country’s space programme as it will help open up huge commercial opportunities in the space sector, according to G Madhavan Nair, former Chairman, ISRO.
Once that capability is achieved by putting three astronauts in space using ISRO’s GSLV Mk III in December 2021, the country can think in terms of entering the realm of ‘Space Tourism’, Nair said in his keynote address on the second day of EDGE 2020.
“It is a big international business opportunity for India as there are only a few countries with that capability, and India has a definite advantage as its technology is one of the best even while the costs are very low,” he said.
Once human space travel is achieved, the country can think in terms of “colonising’’ the Moon and later Mars. Chandrayaan has detected the presence of huge quantities of Helium-3 on the Moon which is used for nuclear fission. “One tonne of Helium-3 is enough to meet the energy needs of the entire country,” Madhavan Nair said, adding that this is the benefit we can derive from space.
India’s space programme has achieved maturity. The technology is world-class and space commerce has also caught up very well. What is missing is the participation of industrial sectors, according to him.
The Space Park in Thiruvananthapuram is a unique venture which has a great potential for success, he said adding that it can work as a bridge between the public-funded space programme and the private sector, including startups.
The Space Park is well anchored. High-quality human resources coupled with technological back-up and the presence of the IIST will make the Park a matchless proposition especially at a time when there is scope for a ten-fold increase in space-based services by 2030, Nair added.
Soon after Madhavan Nair’s address, Letters of Intent (LoIs) were exchanged with Laboratories for Atmospheric Space Physics (LASP), Colorado, and the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), Austria. Dr. Daniel Baker, LASP Programme Director, exchanged the LoI with Santhosh Kurup, Special Officer, Space Park while Dr. Jayakumar Venkatesan, National Point of Contact – India, SGAC, handed over the LoI to Santhosh Kurup.
A partnership with LASP, the largest university community having 10 institutions of higher learning as affiliates, will enable sharing of their learning with Kerala’s universities, higher education and research institutions of interest. This collaboration will not only enable sharing of experiences but also pave the way for Kerala’s research institutions and universities to be part of future space missions and facilitate training in space technology.
SGAC is the largest space community of enthusiasts involved in policy making, youth mobilisation into space technologies besides supporting entrepreneurship and training. This tie-up will pave the way for the entry of Kerala into the global space research and industry sectors.
Earlier, in an interactive panel discussion on ‘Building World-class Space Tech Ecosystem’, Dr. Saji Gopinath, CEO, KSUM explained the end-to-end support provided by the Mission for the growth of startups in the State. “We generally look for deep-tech companies that have interesting, innovative and scalable ideas.”
Dr. Jayasankar Prasad, MD, Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd., said that the Space Park will have an area for startups and a zone for tooling; a common tool room which will spare the companies redundant expenditure on equipment development.
Legal Framework Must to Propel Growth of Space Industry: Antrix CMD
As the entrepreneurial potential of the Indian space sector is poised for a major leap there is an urgent need to put in place regulatory and legal frameworks to create an enabling ecosystem to expedite growth, said Rakesh Sasibhushan, CMD, Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of ISRO.
He was speaking at the Space Technology conclave EDGE 2020, while unveiling a position paper on India’s space sector titled ‘Preparing to scale new heights: Enhancing private participation in India’s commercial space sector’, brought out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Noting that the Indian commercial space market is at an inflection point, Sasibhushan said the country needs to take necessary measures to remove the hurdles along our path to huge success.
“Today you have the private sector dominating the space industry in the world. ISRO has done a remarkable job in developing critical technologies and the Indian space programme has been appreciated the world over for its societal orientation. Now we have to create regulatory and legal frameworks to attract private investments,” he said.
Releasing the report by handing it over to M Sivasankar IAS, Principal Secretary, IT and Electronics, Government of Kerala, Sourav Bhattacharya of PwC said the Indian space economy is now valued at $7 billion, which is around 2 per cent of the global space economy. With a target to contribute 1 per cent to India’s envisaged $5 trillion GDP in 2024, the space sector needs to reach $50 billion.
Apex Body for Space Industry
Seeking to leverage the investment potential in space sector, Space Federation of India (SFI) was launched as an apex industry body at the two-day international conclave on Space Technology, EDGE 2020.
Conceived to be the voice of country’s space industry, SFI will function as the premier non-profit trade association bringing the entire space industry under one roof.
It aims at striving to lay the foundation for a sustainable, consensus-driven and thriving space ecosystem in India.
P S R Sastri, Director – DSP, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), launched the website of SFI (www.spacefed.in) on the occasion. The office-bearers of SFI – Chris Nair, Sreedhar Ramasubban and Pavan Kumar Chandra – were also present on the occasion.
ISRO Readying Low-cost Launch Vehicles
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is readying low-cost satellite launch vehicles costing about Rs. 30-35 crore each which can put into orbit satellites weighing up to 500 kg.
The first launch of such a vehicle is expected to take place in the next four months. This capability will give ISRO a big commercial edge as it will be able to cater to micro, mini and medium segments of the market, according to Haridas T V, Deputy Director, VSSC who took part in a panel discussion at EDGE 2020.
The biggest advantage is that ISRO now can manufacture these vehicles in a turnaround time of just three weeks, he said.
ISRO has earmarked $1,600 million for launch vehicles of which $870 million will be for PSLV while the remaining amount will be allocated for GSLV, he said adding that ISRO is planning 500-plus PSLV launches in the next five years. The Government-Owned Contractor-Operated (GOCO) model is picking up very well in the space and defence sectors. “We want to leverage it to the maximum in the coming days,” Haridas added.
Earlier, in his keynote address at the session titled ‘Navigating space industry – through innovation, agility and collaboration’, Dr. Rabin Giles, Director – Innovation, CNES Connect, said there is tremendous scope for cooperation between France and India in the development of space technology. “India and France can work to evolve a model for the Moon programme. Space industry is a sector where ‘patience and dream’ equally play a big part,’’ said Dr. Giles.
Dr. Daniel Baker, Director of America’s LASP (The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics) Programme, stressed the need for students from universities to take part in space research programmes. In this context he lauded the new Space Park initiative which, according to him, will be a launchpad for exploration. The efforts should be focussed on replicating the success of LASP here, he said.
‘Space Sector Promises Big Opportunities for Private Players’
Space sector offers huge opportunities for private investment in India, with the government’s policy to open up this vital segment which had been a State preserve for decades, according to a senior space scientist.
Setting the context for the Space Technology conclave, EDGE 2020, M C Dathan, former Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), who is currently the Scientific Advisor to the Chief Minister of Kerala, highlighted the need to build a robust ecosystem to harness the potential of the domain. The country’s first Space Technology Park launched in Thiruvananthapuram is a major step towards that direction, he added. “The government has taken steps to ensure maximum involvement of private entrepreneurs in the space sector,” Dathan said.
Creating a sound ecosystem essentially requires five enablers: physical infrastructure, common infrastructure, mentoring network, national and international partnerships and aggregation of demands within the country and abroad, he said.
Noting that the Space Park seeks to meet all these basic criteria, he said a large number of space technology and aerospace firms have already shown keen interest in the facility.
Dathan, who had played a key role in many of ISRO’s projects, noted that all countries, except India, have space programme as a defence technology spin-off. Naturally, the fruits of Indian space programme have been channelised for the benefit of society, he added.
M Sivasankar IAS, Principal Secretary, IT and Electronics, Government of Kerala, said the State is building an ecosystem that will help evolve and operate the space sector. The efforts will help big domain players as well as startups and small-medium enterprises scale new heights and generate opportunities. Noting that ISRO is collaborating to fulfil this ambitious project, he said the Kerala capital is “eminently qualified” to be the “space city’’ of India. DK
The International Satellite Programme in Research and Education (INSPIRE) project will be implemented at the upcoming Space Park to provide universities and students training to build satellites. This was revealed at a panel session on ‘Space technology backbone for science and academics: INSPIRE project’ held as part of EDGE 2020.
Currently, sessions are being conducted at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) in Thiruvananthapuram under INSPIRE project, which has the involvement of eight prominent universities. The aim of INSPIRE is to establish a long-term academic programme for developing a constellation of small satellites and a global network of ground stations.
Dr. Martin Kaufmann, Professor, University of Wuppertal, Germany; Mike McGrath, former Engineering Director, LASP; Rick Kohnert, Small Satellite Programme Manager, LASP; and Loren Chang, Professor, National Central University, Taiwan, were the panellists at the session.
The second edition of EDGE conclave is tentatively scheduled for January 2021, according to Santhosh Kurup, Special Officer, Space Park. DK