India Space Congress 2022: Space as the fourth frontier

The space industry is keenly looking forward to the Indian government's new space policy and hoping for ease of doing business to take a practical shape.

Col Anil Bhat (retd) Nov 09, 2022
India Space Congress 2022

Space research activities were initiated in India during the early 1960s when applications using satellites were in experimental stages even in the United States. With the live transmission of the Tokyo Olympic Games across the Pacific by the American Satellite Syncom-3’ demonstrating the power of communication satellites, Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the founding father of the Indian space programme, quickly recognized the benefits of space technologies for India. As a first step, the Department of Atomic Energy formed the INCOSPAR (Indian National Committee for Space Research) under the leadership of Dr Sarabhai and Dr Ramanathan in 1962. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was later formed on August 15, 1969. The prime objective of ISRO is to develop space technology and its application to various national needs. It is one of the six largest space agencies in the world. The Department of Space (DOS) and the Space Commission was set up in 1972 and ISRO was brought under DOS on June 1, 1972.

Since its inception, the Indian space programme has been orchestrated well and had three distinct elements such as satellites for communication and remote sensing, the space transportation system and application programmes. Two major operating systems have been established – the Indian National Satellite (INSAT) for telecommunication, television broadcasting, and meteorological services and the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) for monitoring and management of natural resources and Disaster Management Support (Vikaspedia).

Since the launch of India’s first satellite Aryabhata on April 19, 1975, till the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C53/DS-EO mission on June 30, 2022, ISRO has made at least 35 launches of various satellite systems. However, despite all this progress, India never got down to exploring/researching the military aspects/applications of space till 2019, when Lt Gen PJS Pannu (retd), former Deputy Chief IDS, Advisor, SatCom Industry Association (SIA)-India, Member, India Space Congress Organising Committee and Distinguished Fellow, USI and one who had initiated the raising of Defence Space Agency, held a conference raising consciousness about the same in New Delhi.

With the evolution of technology opening up multiple challenges to a nation’s security, space is increasingly being referred to as the fourth frontier. In a nation's defence and security, challenges in space take on a completely new dimension. The SatCom Industry Association (SIA-India), a non-profit association, was created to represent the interests of the communication satellite ecosystem in India. As a vibrant body, SIA-India represents satellite operators, satellite systems, launch vehicles and ground and terminal equipment manufacturers and application solutions providers to the government, regulators, policymakers, and domestic and international standards bodies. As the apex representative body for the satellite communications ecosystem, SIA aims to present the industry's interest to the highest government levels for policy-making and regulatory and licensing matters.

India Space Congress

Hosted for the first time by SAI-India in New Delhi from 26-28 October 2022, the India Space Congress 2022 brought together defence and cyber experts who discussed threats and challenges posed by the fourth frontier. On day one, the session ‘Space: Industry Alliances’ will discuss the roadmap for a collaborative effort between the ISRO, private sector, and academia. On day 3 of the event, there was a riveting session on satellite intelligence. The session titled, ‘Space: The Fourth Frontier of Warfare,’ focused on the strategic edge that the satellites bring with Satellite Intelligence, full situational awareness connecting man and machine to the defence needs. Experts discussed the strategic importance and urgency of each solution in the operational theatre of satellite warfare. This well attended was moderated by Lt Gen VG Khandare, Advisor to the Ministry of Defence and featured Lt Gen Pannu, one who had initiated the raising of Defence Space Agency, covered the importance of all use cases of space with historical examples in warfare and how space would have changed the course of history.

According to Lt Gen Pannu, “In recent times the world has witnessed how space power and dual-use can overwhelm adversaries and can act as a force multiplier for partners. The space domain as a global common is dominated by an exclusive club of nations and those who can brace up in the coming years will occupy a respectable position in that club. India has a certain edge being a space-faring nation. We however need to accelerate to catch up with the rapid development taking place around the world”. He further said, “Future wars when fought on the ground shall be enabled and controlled from space. Space assets, therefore, will be prime drivers of security and dual use. As a military space enthusiast, I would want the India Space Congress to highlight how the fourth frontier is important to secure the nation and how it can bring in the internet of military and internet of battle things which are going to be controlled from space and in a very secure manner.”

The session ‘Protecting Space Capabilities and Cybersecurity Framework’ dealt with threats to space assets and the supporting infrastructure. Faced with a unique mix of challenges that makes cybersecurity critical, from threat vectors to risk mitigation considerably more complex, the session highlighted takeaways from IT frameworks to handle such threats and possible mitigation.

In a session titled ‘Leveraging Dual use Capabilities for National Security,’ a distinguished panel discussed the procurement of space capabilities and assessed the complex agility required to build dual-use capabilities.

Space policy 

Anil Prakash, DG, SIA-India dwelt on possible solutions to queries like civil-military fusion to spur growth for the space sector, leveraging Defence offsets for enhancing civil space capabilities for military procurements, norms for commercial services procurement for Defence needs, among others.

The DSA onboarded the private industry to address the challenges of research, innovation, and products. Apart from the panellists mentioned, some more were Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Air Marshal (Retd.) Gurcharan Singh Bedi, S. Somnath, Chairman, ISRO, Venkat Katkuri of Airbus, Defence & Aerospace, Gulshan Rai, former National Cyber Security Coordinator – PMO, Peter Bance of OneWeb, Pawan Goenka, Chairman, IN-SPACE and Pavan Duggal – Advocate among others. The India Space Congress 2022 is supported by ISRO, IN-SPACE, NSIL, DoT, MoD, and the NITI Aayog apart from various domestic and international trade bodies.

India Space Congress was a very timely and rightly placed professional extravaganza. The space sector has been discovered as the most impactful domain for both civilian and military use. ISC covered all the use cases that this sector could offer to humanity for future growth.

A footfall of close to 400 a day and for three days of eight hours a day speaks for itself. Indian and foreign participants were largely influenced by over 120 speakers covering a plethora of space knowledge. Participation of DRDO, ISRO, Defence Space Agency, IN-SPACE and academia was very strong, conspicuous and constructive. Minister, Chandrashekar was present. The presence of users, stakeholders, manufacturers, academia, scientists, and media ensured that matchmaking between demand and supply is discussed at every panel. Great potential for domestic manufacturers. The space industry was very keen to know the dual use of space applications, which were discussed and followed by an intense interactive session.

The space industry is keenly looking forward to the Indian government's new space policy and hoping for ease of doing business to take a practical shape.

(The author, a former spokesperson of the Defence Ministry and Indian Army, can be contacted at

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Rakesh Kapur
Tue, 11/15/2022 - 05:02
There got to be application specific inputs from Satcom Industry Association-India to the Govt. to decide on various aspects of New space Policy. Inputs should come in the form of Space and Ground infrastructure that in needed to be in operation.Forum under Sh Anil Prakash can spell out various disciplines that need to be addressed . For me top one is BB internet infrastructure that may allow internet services everywhere matching to services in main towns.Investments in this sector are expected to be huge enough for all stakeholders with Satcom Industry Association.

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