Interview: Lt Gen Anil Bhatt, Director General, Indian Space Association

Sub Title : What will this newly raised organisation do?

Issues Details : Vol 16 Issue 3 Jul – Aug 2022

Author : Editoral Team

Page No. : 22

Category : Military Affairs

: August 4, 2022

Indian Space Association (ISpA) is an apex industry body, created in Oct 2021, to be the collective voice of the Indian space industry. Lt Gen Anil Kumar Bhatt, the Director General of the organisation gives his views on various issues concerning the Space Domain and spells out the role and vision of ISpA

DEFSTRAT: Indian Space Association is a newly raised organization envisioned by the Prime Minister of India to provide impetus to the Indian space industry. What is the role assigned to the ISpA and how does it fit into the overall space domain in India?

ISpA has been formed on the directions of our hon’ble PM to provide a platform to the private space industry. The historical decision of the government to open space to non-Government private Entities has opened huge opportunities for the private sector. In order to fulfil the PM’s vision ISpA aspires to be the “Apex Space Industry Body,” created to be the collective voice of the Indian Space Industry.

ISpA echoes our Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat and aims to work with all stakeholders, to create an enabling environment for strengthening the private industry in the Indian Space sector. ISpA envisions to propel India to the global forefront in the entire space ecosystem.

Our foundational guiding principles, endeavor for the following: –

             Empower. Promote discussion on all activities relating to space domain.

             Collaborate. Ensure collaborative effort of all stakeholders.

             Strive for Excellence. Achieve through collective and unified effort.

             Continued Development. Facilitate growth and development of all including start-ups & MSMEs in the space industry.

             Promote. Local ecosystem and strive towards Atmanirbharta.

DEFSTRAT: As the first Director General of ISpA what are the priorities you have set for the organization?

As Director General of ISpA, I see my role as a facilitator for creating an enabling space ecosystem for growth of the private space industry in India. The priorities set by me are to ensure the following: –

             Be a Unified Voice and Bridge of Indian Space Industry for ensuring enabling Policy Frameworks. Be the interface between the government and the Industry Stakeholders for constructive policy and legal initiatives. Ensure a constant dialogue to refine policy.

             Energize Business Growth. Provide a strong platform for all space industry stakeholders to cooperate, to identify areas of mutual growth and sustainability and if need be, look for joint ventures.

             Interface with Defence and Security Agencies. Interface with defence and strategic domain organisations to understand their needs, sensitize them about emerging technology and work towards developing Dual-Use Technology which meets Defence as well as Commercial requirements.

             Strive to make India a Global Hub in all areas related to Space-technologies. Facilitate Indian Industry to become Net Exporters of Products, Technologies, and Services.

             Work for capacity and Knowledge Building and Incentivise Space Awareness & Knowledge. Enhance growth of Space academic culture in our premium academic institutions. Facilitate relations between academia and industry by assisting Space incubators in leading technical academic institutions.

             Enhance International Partnerships and Cooperation in Space. Facilitate technology and business collaborations between Indian and Foreign entities. Act as the key enabler to achieve strategic self-reliance in key niche technology areas.

DEFSTRAT: In your assessment where does India stand in its overall capability in the space domain, both civil and military?

With a sense of pride, I wish to state that India belongs to a select club of space-faring nations of the world and has excellent capabilities in all upstream, midstream and downstream activities of Space.  India would very soon sending humans to space as part of its Gaganyan mission and of course has already sent successful space missions to the Moon and Mars. In the near future India would be able to establish a Space station as well as develop reusable launch vehicles.

In the defence domain, we have military satellites for communication and ISR and would be able to soon launch small satellites with better resolution and accuracy. For navigation /PNT, we have our own constellation, IRNSS which can provide services to the Indian military and for civilian usage. We have a proven kinetic ASAT capability and I am sure work for non-kinetic anti Satellite weapons is ongoing.

DEFSTRAT: One of the tasks for ISpA is to bridge the gap between the end user and the industry in India. How do you propose to achieve this objective?

The proliferation of space usage in all walks of life is already ongoing, the common man is using it for navigation, weather prediction, while using an ATM, as DTH and many more uses. With coming of LEO constellations broadband would reach to the remotest corner of India and help in overcoming the Digital Divide. Satcom will work seamlessly with terrestrial communication by providing ‘Fiber in Space’ for communication and terrestrial backhaul. We will have to work with various ministries such as agriculture, education and health, finance(banking) to proliferate Use cases of Space. This would require aggressive awareness campaign and interface between space industry and other users and stakeholders.

As defence is a large user of space, a special focus would include interface with Defence and Strategic Domain organisations to understand their needs, sensitise them about emerging technology and work towards developing Dual-Use Technology which meets defence as well as commercial requirements.  Strategic communication of Indian Space industry capabilities to various consumers and governments at both national and global level will be done.

DEFSTRAT: Given the strides made in the space domain by some of the technologically advanced countries, do you feel that India will be able to catch up with them? How soon will that be and have we identified the priority areas?

There are not very large gaps that exist between the most advanced space faring nations and India. The denial regime put by the Western Nations, post PNEs, had resulted in our space programme becoming self-reliant, a blessing in disguise. We may have some gaps in sensor technology and miniaturisation of components, but we do have the capability to fulfill these gaps with miniscule or limited imports. The technology of reusable rockets has been presently developed only by Starlink, but I am sure that very soon, it would be developed by our ISRO scientists or startups.

DEFSTRAT: Do you see an Elon Musk emerging in India in the years to come? Do we need one?

Elon Musk epitomises innovation and positive disruption in space, apart from caliber, he has deep pockets to risk his money to fulfill global space aspirations. I am sanguine that we have young men in India with similar scientific zeal and caliber. However, finding such a person having large financial resources would be a challenge.  Notwithstanding the same, we need an Elon Musk and am sure will have one very soon in future. The capabilities and drive of our young startups gives me a lot of confidence and hope.

DEFSTRAT: What are the commonalities between use of space for military purposes and for civilian use?

All technologies being used in space are dual use, be it Satellite based communications, Remote Sensing and navigation or ‘ISR’ as called in military parlance. Even Space Situational Awareness which may be used by the military for identification of own and adversary’s assets is used for debris detection and collision avoidance by the civil sector. Only the non-kinetic and Kinetic Anti-Satellite capabilities are the ones which would be unique to the military only.

DEFSTRAT:  Your vision for ISpA and Indian space programmes.

ISpA will undertake Policy Advocacy and Engage with all stakeholders of the entire Indian Space domain, including the Government and its Agencies, to make India self-reliant, technologically advanced and a leading player in the Global Space arena.  Our objective is to perform an all-encompassing role for the entire space domain. ISpA will work towards growth and capacity building of the private as well as public sector industry in India’s space domain. It will participate in formulating effective, efficient and appropriate policies, and regulatory frameworks for encouraging and facilitating entire spectrum of space domain activities. IsPA will foster awareness and promote the following: –

             Design, Manufacture, Launch, Operate and R&D: Satellites; Launch Vehicles; Payloads; Ground & Space Control Systems; and, Testing & Scientific Equipment.

             Communications: Satellite-based Communication Services including Satellite Broadband Connectivity.

             Applications and Services: Space-based Navigation; Geospatial & Remote Sensing; Situational Awareness; Space Infrastructure Security and Protection; Scientific Explorations; Astronomy; Testing & Certification; and, others.

             Capacity Building: Awareness, Education, Knowledge Sharing and Skilling.

ISpA vision is to make India a Global Space Manufacturing Hub with participation of Indian private industry and Startups and provide Space based solutions not only within the country but internationally, whilst also meeting the Space aspirations of our Security and Strategic sector.