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BENGALURU: India has set up a new organisation to provide private enterprises a level playing field in building satellites and rockets and launch them using its space agency’s infrastructure.

Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (In-Space) will hand-hold, promote and guide private industries in space activities through a friendly policy and regulatory environment, Union Minister of State for Space and Atomic Energy, Jitendra Singh said.

In-Space will have members from the Space Commission as well as industry representatives on its board.

Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will focus more on building new technologies, human spaceflight programmes and deep space missions. New Space India Ltd (NSIL), the commercial arm of Isro, will engage with startups and private companies for new applications and use the space infrastructure to build them.

“Our aim is to create that type of companies,” Isro chairman K Sivan told ET, when asked whether the new structure will allow local companies such as the US-based SpaceX and Blue Origin to emerge in the country. “We are encouraging private industry more than before. We have a roadmap,” he said.

Sivan said the private industry is already involved in 80% of the production of satellites and rockets in India, largely as suppliers of systems. Isro is engaging the industry to manufacture its small satellite launch vehicle and polar satellite launch vehicle.

Former Isro chairman G Madhavan Nair said the decision was a logical move to allow private firms in commercial space activities, while Isro focuses on building next generation rockets, satellites and deep space missions.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States also opened up to the private industry in stages and it has taken several decades for a competitive private sector to emerge there, he said.

The government has had policies for over a decade that allow private companies to build satellites and use remote sensing applications. It, however, did not have policies for rockets as it was complying with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), even though India was not a signatory, and could not allow rockets with more capabilities.

“The board now can look at this on a case-to-case basis,” Nair said.

“If you look at Isro, programmes have grown more than 10-fold in the last decade or so, whereas the manpower remains the same, at around 15,000 people. The extra resources for rockets, satellites are coming from the industry,” he said.