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India to allow foreign companies too to make and launch satellites


(This story originally appeared in on Oct 25, 2020)

BENGALURU: India’s new space policy will not just open up the sector to private Indian entities but also encourage foreign direct investment and allow foreign companies to set up facilities in the country, department of space (DoS) secretary K Sivan said.

These bold initiatives are likely to be part of a policy framework DoS is preparing. These include permitting FDI in the space sector, with or without tie-ups with Indian firms, and allowing international entities to engage in a host of space-related activities.

“We are going on full steam now. Foreign firms can set up facilities to make satellites and launch vehicles here, set up ground stations and use our spaceports as long as they invest here through FDI,” K Sivan, secretary, DoS, told TOI.

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“While policies will enable this, decisions will be taken on a case-by-case basis, given how sensitive the space sector is. National security and interest will be priority, and firms will be required to give undertakings on following all guidelines we lay down,” he added.

On partnerships with foreign satellite companies, Sivan said Indian companies can tie up with foreign firms. “For instance, our (Indian) firms can have 60% investment and foreign firms can invest 40% through FDI. But the modalities need to be worked out,” Sivan said.

While stating that the department would give more clarity once IN-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre) is completely operational and the other policies in the pipeline are ready to be rolled out, Sivan said many companies have shown interest in the sector.

In fact, the newly formed IN-SPACe is already reviewing multiple applications, including one each from UK-based OneWeb, a stake in which is owned by Bharti Enterprises, and Norway-headquartered KSAT, a global telecommunications service provider.

Norway firm wants to set up ground stations in India: Sivan

Sivan said Airtel had sought the department’s support in establishing ground stations. “We are reviewing this and there are many more applications that have been received. One major foreign firm is KSAT from Norway, which as part of its worldwide network, wants to set up ground stations in India,” he said.

As reported by TOI, industrialist Sunil Bharti Mittal had in August said the firm was keen on partnering with Isro to leverage OneWeb’s constellation. “OneWeb will have the world’s first large constellation in LEO (low Earth orbit). We will have 648 satellites covering the world, and testing will begin next year. We desire to get landing rights (permission to use satellites in India) here and we’ve identified areas in north, south and west for ground stations to start delivering services when constellation is complete,” Mittal said.

Stating that the firm understands the challenges of taking optical fibre to some of the remote parts of India, Mittal had said they have earmarked many areas to deliver broadband connectivity, for which too they hoped to work closely with Isro.

From its headquarters in Norway, the firm has been in the ground segment business since 1968. As on date, the firm’s website reads: “…Our mission is to be the world’s leading commercial satellite centre. We have heavily invested in, and built a network of global ground stations, consisting of more than 200 remotely controlled antennas.”





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