Space Activities Bill

Department of Space


Space Activities Bill is under active consideration of the Government-Dr Jitendra Singh

Key Highlights Space Activities Bill:

  • The Bill aims at regulation and promotion of private players in space sector
  • Government committed to create an ecosystem to encourage more private participation in indigenous production of space technologies, services and devices
  • Government of India has announced space sector reforms in June 2020.
  • The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) was created as an independent nodal agency under the Department of Space with the mandate of promoting, handholding, licensing, authorization and monitoring of private space activities in India. Access to Department of Space (DOS) facilities and expertise are extended to private entities to support their space activities.
  • Announcement of Opportunities were done offering challenges in new domains of space technology. Government of India is encouraging transfer of technologies developed in the field of space to Indian industries. Apart from this, Government of India is bringing in new sector policies and guidelines and also revising existing policies.
  • IN-SPACe which is under creation will have Safety and Security Directorate to ensure security of ISRO installations when allowing access to private entities. Public consultations were done and the relevant Departments and Ministries were consulted.
  • An exclusive webinar in ‘Unlocking India’s potential in space sector’ consisting of four sessions covering the four vertical of space programme were organized with the participation of Industrialist/Academia/Start-ups as well as general public. All suggestions have been taken into consideration and appropriately addressed.

The background

The Draft Space Activities Bill was first made public for comments by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in November 2017. The proposed legislation covers several aspects of India’s Space goals, including international and national obligations. In August 2020, shortly after the government announced Space reforms, ISRO said that the Bill had been finalized and was with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for clearance.

As part of the larger reforms, the government announced setting up the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-Space) as an independent nodal agency under the Department of Space to regulate, promote, handhold and monitor private space activities in India. Later, access to Department of Space (DOS) facilities and expertise was extended to private entities to support their Space activities, as the government emphasized that it wanted to encourage transfer of technologies developed in Space to Indian industries for better economic growth.

The impact

The implementation of the Space Activities Bill will give a major boost to the Indian Space industry, which for years has felt constrained due to lack of clear and favorable policies. In an in-depth analysis of the Indian Space-tech startup ecosystem last year, Geospatial World had reported how lack of funds and an open policy was forcing startups to find ways to survive, and in certain cases look to shift operations to other countries for better opportunities. According to a pwc report, the Indian Space economy is worth $7 billion, which is around 2% of the global Space economy. The report noted that India’s Space sector needs to grow at approximately 48% CAGR over the next few years to reach its target of $50 billion.

With significant market advantages like high demand for Space services in sectors like agriculture and financial services, strong domestic manufacturing base, a large pool of human resource and the ability to leverage IT skills, the time is ripe for an enabling policy that allows private companies to operate to their true potential. The Space Activities Bill can be that policy.

Space Activities Bill 2017 Draft

  • Key propositions of the Bill

  • The provisions of this Act shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India
  • A non-transferable licence shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity
  • The Central Government will formulate the appropriate mechanism for licensing, eligibility criteria, and fees for licence.
  • The government will maintain a register of all space objects (any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop more space activity plans for the country
  • It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity
  • It will ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of a space activity.
  • It will share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
  • If any person undertakes any commercial space activity without authorisation they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than ₹1 crore or both.

  • Background:
    • Space activities in India, which started in early 1960s , are hitherto pursued by Department of Space (DOS), as nodal agency for space activities in India. As per ‘Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules 1961(as amended from time to time) DOS has been responsible for the space activities in India, for more than five decades, with the major objective of bringing the benefits of space technology and its applications to societal needs and national development.
    • Pursuance of Space activities were focused on three major areas namely –
      • Space Infrastructure which includes realization of spacecraft for various applications and associated ground infrastructure,
      • Space Transportation systems, which include through realization of various types / class of launch vehicles and associated ground infrastructure including launch facilities, and
      • Space applications for various national requirements through establishment of necessary ground infrastructure and coordination mechanisms.
    • The Department of Space, through Indian Space Research Organisation and its R&D centres has been executing various satellite and launch vehicle projects and conceptualized & implemented a number of application programmes for national development and governance.
    • In pursuance of space activities by the Department, certain policies were formulated, commensurate with the nature and scope of space activities and emerging commercial requirements in application areas. Thus, SATCOM and Remote Sensing Data Policies were formulated by the Department. Besides, a few other internal policy guidelines on technology transfer, industry participation, Safety, human resources, information security, etc., were also formulated from time to time to support the functional/ operational needs of the ISRO Centres under Department of Space

  • International Treaty Obligations on Outer Space Activities:
    • Internationally, the outer space activities are governed by relevant chapters of international law in general and by United Nations’ (UN) Treaties and principles evolved under UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) in particular. The obligations of a State Party under international treaties on outer space activities are expected to be complied/ discharged through national mechanisms, namely domestic space legislations. Basic tenets of treaty obligations, namely, ‘bearing International responsibility’ and ‘liability for damages caused by space activities and space objects’ are more applicable to a State Party, where space activities are performed by non-governmental/ private sectors. Hence, non-governmental space activities are required to be licenced/ authorized and continuously supervised by a State in order to comply with treaty obligations.
    • A few space faring nations such as USA, Russia, Ukraine, Republic of Korea and other nations engaged in space activities, such as, South Africa, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Austria, etc. have formulated domestic space legislations. Japan and China are in the process of formulating their national space act. France has a Space Authorization Act for providing commercial space activities through Arianespace.
    • India is a State Party to major treaties of UN on outer space activities and has been performing space activities in compliance with the obligations of UN Treaties on Outer Space activities under Governmental envelope.

Need for Space Act in India:

  • Over a period, with the logical evolution of space activities in India from conceptual, experimental, operational, commercial and further expansion phases, the demands for space systems, applications and services for national needs and beyond have been rapidly growing. This scenario also encourages the participation of Indian industry and service providers at much higher levels in all round space activities under the technical guidance and authorization of the Government through Department of Space.
  • Further, a few start-up companies too in India are showing interest in engaging in space systems activities. Commercial opportunities in space activities and services, nationally and internationally demand higher order of participations by private sector agencies. This situation demands for a necssary legal environment for orderly performance and growth of space sector. Constitution of India too provides for implementation of international treaty obligations, vide Articles 51 and 253.
  • Thus there is a need for national space legislation for supporting the overall growth of the space activities in India. This would encourage enhanced participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India, in compliance with international treaty obligations, which is becoming very relevant today.

Approach followed:

  • The Department has studied the basic tenets of a draft space Bill in cognizance with the space acts of other space faring nations. Subsequently, consultations were held with experts on space law and international law and representatives of Ministries and Departments, through a national level workshop. Through these consultation processes, a broad consensus was arrived at, on the need for a space act for India and what it should address to support the growth of space activities of the country.
  • It was learnt that the contents, scope and applicability of space legislations of other countries vary a lot, depending upon the nature and extent of space activities pursued by them. Considering these variations, a Model Law on National Space Legislation was formulated and submitted by International Law Association (ILA), to the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) in 2013. This Model Law was studied by the Department, as it addresses the obligations of a State under UN treaties on outer space activities precisely. Based on this reference, the draft Bill on National space activities was taken up for development with necessary customization to match with the Indian context of space activities.
  • India’s space activities are very unique towards delivering the results through various successful accomplishments. Today, the space technology and applications are used as enabling tools for national development and governance. Hence, it was considered that introduction of a space specific legal regime should only enable further growth of space activities in India, rather than merely a regulatory or restrictive regime. It needs to facilitate private sector participation in space activities under authorization and supervision by the Government.
  • On these premises, a draft Space Activities Bill,2017 has been formulated with due preliminary consultations with a few relevant Ministries. It is intended to have a basic framework with very essential provisions for treaty obligations, with scope for formulating rules and regulations on specific topics / activities. As the nature of space technologies vis-à-vis scope of space activities change very fast, it would be prudent to revise the rules and formulate with updates to cope with the developments. The Draft Bill includes a provision for Rules Making powers by the Government

Source: PIB

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