Unleashing India’s Space-Tech Potential: Charting the Course to Space Domain Leadership and the Rise of India’s Space Economy

Sub Title : India’s growing presence in space for military and non-military purposes

Issues Details : Vol 17 Issue 6 Jan – Feb 2024

Author : Lt Col Vikas Mishra

Page No. : 49

Category : Military Affairs

: January 27, 2024

In 2022, the global space landscape underwent a transformative shift with a substantial surge in space assets launched, signalling greater accessibility and diverse applications. A total of 2533 objects from 179 launches marked a 30% increase in successful missions, including 124 Indian satellites. This expansion coincides with experts like James Clay Moltz foreseeing a shift towards “deterrence by denial strategies” in space conflict, reshaping the dynamics of global security.


Space assets are important for the social and economic development of a nation. In present evolving geo-political arena, dominance over space, likely to play an important role in the spectrum of national security and specially defence forces as regional or global power and the space economy is likely to impact the future of nation’s economy. Space is an important domain for enhancing military operations and supports military intelligence, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), communication, navigation and surveillance. Broader global space security trends and specific developments in the Indo-Pacific may have pushed India to invest in defence space capabilities and space awareness projects. Morgan Stanley estimates that the global space industry could generate revenue of more than $1 trillion or more by 2040, so one can imagine the potential for overall economic growth, if a country is able to develop a stable and developed space sector. With the growing perception of space security threats from China and a desire to enhance India’s space capabilities and influence in global governance of space, New Delhi is likely to press ahead with its ambitious integrated space program supported by SMEs and private player.

Space Domain: Global Vs Indian Scenario

In 2022, there was a quantum jump in space assets launched in space by various countries, indicating easy accessibility to space and increasing diverse applications of space technology. In 2022, total of 2533 objects from 179 launches in 2022 against 1860 objects from 135 launches in 2021. Approximately, 30% increase in successful launches and a 36% increase in the number of space assets inserted in orbit were witnessed. Till mid-2022, a total of 124 Indian satellites, including those from private players/universities/educational institutions, have been launched. Further, according to experts such as James Clay Moltz, leading advisor to the US military on space defence, we are entering a new phase where space conflict will be one of the most defining aspects of global security but the game will be defined by “deterrence by denial strategies” rather than by simple offensive strategies.

Space Domain For Armed Forces

Space based platforms like satellites/ space stations are equipped with multi-sensor technologies and technologies for remote sensing or secure communication to include electro-optic capabilities, thermal sensors, high resolution cameras, and communication sensors that can provide much better remote sensing capabilities and space based situational awareness in near real time for decision makers. Space power can use space while denying the same to adversaries. To enhance military operations through space-based capabilities, there is a need for India to coordinate its space capabilities and their services across all spectrum of warfare in defence domains, build confidence among various space assets and their services like secure satellite communication, trusted Positioning Navigation and Timing (PNT) solution and enhance the non-kinetic capabilities like ASAT, space-based weapon systems etc and defending one’s own assets in space.

Defence Of Space Assets

It is crucial to understand that space assets are highly susceptible to various types of threats and these threats in space can be divided into non-military threats and military threats. Non-military threats like cyber-attack, denial of services or passing of incorrect data to their legitimate users by malicious actors and are likely unpredictable, while military threats may emanate directly from fear of subversive action by adversaries. In view of strategic importance of the space domain, it is important to have a rugged time-tested policies/ strategy for protecting our own space assets like satellites, ground assets like ground control stations and secured communication segments. Based on prevailing security scenario and likely methods that can be used, threats fall into the category of cyber domain, anti-satellite weapons, weaponised spy satellite operations, RPOs, satcom jamming and nuclear attacks etc. As the Aerospace Corporation explains in a recent paper, there are four main segments of space infrastructure that need to be hardened against cyber-attack. Spacecraft could be vulnerable to command intrusions (giving bad instructions to destroy or manipulate basic controls), payload control and denial of service (sending too much traffic to overload systems). Malware could be used to infect systems on the ground (like satellite control centers) and for users, and links between the two and spacecraft could be spoofed (disguising communication from an untrusted source as a trusted one) or suffer from replay (interrupting or delaying communication by malicious actors).

Focus area for building Defence Capabilities in Space Domain in India

Recently, there has been a significant movement towards opening up of India’s space security through the creation of the Defence Space Agency (DSA) and IN-SPACe, an investment and promotion body or platform for private players/ SMEs to work with ISRO for the space sector. Both organisations will facilitate capacity building of the sector for both civilian and military application. While IN-SPACe primarily looks into the promotion and authorisation of space activities in India for private industry, the DSA caters to military requirements through the private sector operating in the nation. The Indian space industry has evolved over the period and developed a multidimensional approach for using outer space for both strategic and operational purposes that may enable India to make technology advances and build eco-systems to be used by defence forces. To gain a distinct advantage in the space domain, particularly from a defence standpoint, India needs to enhance its capabilities in the detection of threats, protection, and defence and offensive operations. Countries are also working on cyber capabilities to disrupt communication links with satellites. Military around the world are working on C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) capabilities. Currently, India has only two dedicated military satellites viz the GSAT-7 (Rukmini) and GSAT-7A (Angry Bird).

Way Forward for Indian Defence-Space Sector

There are two key drivers of the Defence Space Program Viz Technology and Data. The technology comprises space technologies and supporting emerging technologies like AI, AR, VR, nano technology, quantum technologies, communication, cyber and electronic warfare technology to name a few evolving technological spectrums. Data comprises remote sensing, geospatial data and feed from various ground and space-based sensors with an aim to provide real time situation awareness thereby facilitating effective command and control. There is a void in real-time satellite imagery.

The present system of terrain mapping in the areas of interest and influence need to be reduced to at least four hours, this requires a deliberate effort to launch more defence payload satellites. These may be nano and small LEO satellites on demand. The Defence Space Program Deliverables like AI platform for satellite and other imagery interpretation and identification of military objects and combat groupings of interest, Space domain & Situational Awareness Capabilities, Secure Space Communication Systems, PNT Systems and Software Defined Satellites

Need Of Integrated Space Defence Program

The three quintessential macros for launch of a successful program that can be visualised are policy, space infrastructure and strategy. The three structures comprise of space sector PSU New Space India Limited (NSIL) for oversight on strategic and operational activities in the Space Sector, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) with focus on developing new technologies and new systems, Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) as an interface between ISRO and private entities. There is a dire need to create and develop an overarching structure comprising SMEs for providing long term strategy and management oversight through an Integrated Space Development Program, this would provide a leap jump to a well-orchestrated hub and direction to the Indian National Space Development Program as narrated by Lt Gen Dr Anil Kapoor (Retired).

The Dawn Of Indian Space Economy

India is ranked as one of the major regional space powers in the world because of its resilient capability along the full range of spectrum in the space technology and substantial indigenous capability. As per report on the sector by Arthur D Little (ADL), a multinational management consultancy, the Indian space economy, currently valued at $8 billion, is growing at a CAGR of approximately 4 %, outpacing the global average growth of 2 %. With the successful launch trajectory of ISRO and support from the government and private sector, India’s space economy could reach $40 billion by 2040. The opening up of the space economy to private participation across all phases of activities to include sharing of ISRO’s testing facilities, transfer of satellite and launch technology etc which facilitates ecosystem to the new dawn of growth, innovation and accelerated investment in the sector which can support the economy of the country. As per Citi’s estimates, “Revenue from manufacturing, launch services and ground equipment is likely to contribute the majority of the revenue growth in the space sector.” “However, the fastest growth rate is expected to come from new space applications and industries viz satellite lunch, ground-based stations, space-based services and the revenue forecast to rise from zero to $101 billion over the period.”

India’s space agency, ISRO has achieved many considerable milestones and has established India’s name in the global picture as a provider of reliable and cost-effective space missions. India is the 27th country to sign the Artemis Accords, and has signed six agreements with four countries for launching foreign satellites during 2021-2023. This has the likely potential of $141 Mn to be earned in revenues by providing satellite launch services to these countries.

The authors of ADL’s report argue that India could target a higher rate of growth for its space industry and potentially hit $100 billion in revenue instead of the current estimate of $40 billion. They recommend that India encourage mass adoption of satellite internet services; aggressively exploit existing strengths in satellite/launch vehicle manufacturing and launch services; build capabilities in areas such as space mining, in-space manufacturing, in-orbit servicing, space tourism, and space entertainment; support innovation in sustainable fuel, reusable spacecraft, and eco-friendly technologies; and implement rigorous skill development programmes in space engineering, satellite technology, and applications to expand the pool of skilled scientists and engineers ready to contribute to the space sector. The likely key drivers for investment in the Indian space economy viz the ecosystem that is being provided by the government for private players in the space domain, lower costs for developing and launching satellites as evolving industry and increased market demand for geospatial data.


In present geo-political scenario, dominance over space in future, likely to define any nation’s survival as regional or global power. With US, Russia, and China already in pursuit of becoming a Space power, India will need to equip itself appropriately to meet emerging security challenges of future warfare. China pushing ahead in space and rapidly scaling up its capabilities is a major global challenge and the clearest example of this was visible in 2021 when China performed more launch missions than America and other Asian nations combined. India certainly needs more space-based resources for continuous coverage, faster re-visit and redundancy in space. India needed to enhance jam-proof, ISR, ELINT and EW capabilities and assets to protect our own space based strategic resources in near future. India’s wide-ranging capabilities and activities in space, the country had only captured less than 2% of this huge market and has the potential to grow at faster pace to contribute significantly in the GDP of India.