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The Elon Musk of India could Upend the Space Race

When it comes to the 21st century Space Race, one country is truly pushing the boundaries of what is possible. INDIA.

After successfully launching a sounding rocket in the late sixties, the Indian Space Research Organization was born and started exploring at light speed.

Just a few years later, the ISRO was launching their own satellites into and in 1999, doing it for other countries.

They’ve had two successful Lunar missions: Chandrayaan-1 and 2 with number 3 announced in January 2020.

The biggest feather in India’s space helmet is its Mars Orbiter Mission or MOM. Launched in 2013, MOM became the first Mars mission to be successful on its first attempt. This feat was achieved in only 18 months, spending only 2.7% of what NASA has spent on their Mars missions, and with the youngest team.

Another amazing MOM fact: it had full scale onboard autonomy, meaning: it could troubleshoot for itself instead of having to wait on 20 min time lapse between the Earth and Mars.

In the meantime, ISRO is working hard to accomplish their next milestone: a crewed mission. The plan is for India to send humans into space by 2022, which is the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. 

They have successfully tested the launch abort system for Gaganyaan . Gaganyaan is the Sanskrit word for “Sky Craft” and India’s space explorers will be called Vyomanauts after the Sanskrit word for “space.”

In June 2020, ISRO Chairman, Dr. K. Sivan, announced the Government of India had decided to open up space sector to private enterprises and start-ups. Noting that “An open and inclusive space sector will result in accelerated growth, job creation as well as innovations and will enable Indian Space Industry to be a significant player in global space economy.”

The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center or IN-SPACe, is being created within the Department of Space for the permitting and regulating of the activities of the private sector of space.

One such private enterprise is AstroHub, Southeast Asia’s first space technology incubator, founded by Dr. Bidushi Bhattacharya. She is a former NASA scientist, having worked on the Hubble Space Telescope and Galileo Jupiter mission.  Now based in Singapore, she founded Bhattacharya Space Enterprises in 2015 and AstroHub in 2017.  Noticing a hole in the region’s space market, Dr. Bidushi “set up this company to engage in training and education about the space sector for people from all disciplines.”

Speaking during “Launching India to New Heights in Space” Livestream Symposium, Dr. Bidushi sees that India has the “hugest talent pool in the world.” With the space economy projected to reach $3trillion by 2040, she sees the only way to get there is “to bring talented young people from the private sector.”

During the same symposium, Lt. General PJS Pannu forsees the synergy between ISRO and the start-ups creating demand-based rather than supply-based capabilities to the space program.

And Rohan Ganapathy of Skylo Technologies believes “space is an industry where you need talent and you need people to give solutions” and sees these new reforms as giving the world the ability to start looking at Indian products and solutions as a global supplier for space given the amount of talent and “risk taking appetite” India possesses.

Since ISRO and the Government’s announcement, there have been plenty of Indian Elon Musk memes, but in all seriousness, who will be Elon or Bezos or Branson of India.

With a population of 1.3 billion people, there could be dozens!

and these new initiatives put forth by Prime Minster Narendra Modi administration guarantee that she or he is likely to be found soon.

India is definitely in space, and a program to watch.




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