Where are the Indian private space companies in human spaceflight?

A lot has been happening in Indian Human Spaceflight Programme recently. India announced the names of the first four astronauts who fly to orbit in the Gaganyaan programme. ISRO has revealed plans to build a Bharatiya Antariksh Station, an Indian space station in orbit. There was even talk of landing Indians on the Moon. Given this why are we not seeing more Indian private space companies announce startups that build systems and sub-systems that would help India achieve this dream?

Where are the Indian private space companies at?

Indian private space companies are still building small satellites and launch vehicles. There are a few ISRO vendors who are building things but these are ISRO designs and not their own.

What is the scene at ISRO?

ISRO is now focussed on Gaganyaan, where the focus is to get at the most two Indians into orbit and bring them back safely on Earth. To this end, ISRO has been working on various parts of the problem and will bring them together in three demonstration flights without humans. ISRO has not been funded for anything beyond and they have not proposed for anything beyond Gaganyaan yet to the Government of India for the purposes of receiving funding from the Government. ISRO has actually returned funding to the Government, which means it is not yet using the funding given to it for its various programmes.

Where does that leave Indian private space companies?

This means while there is a lot of play in the media about the future of the human spaceflight programme, there is no funding or design yet to pursue this end. However there is time to be prepared for this future. I think the companies must ask these questions:

  • How do we human-rate our systems/sub-systems?
  • How do we build redundancy in our systems/sub-systems?
  • How can we contribute to the human spaceflight programme with our systems/sub-systems?
  • Will making these changes today enhance our product offering today?

The most fundamental road block is the lack of a national space activities bill. The private space companies are now building based on a trust that many of the things that the Government has promised will fructify. This is not a given.

March 16, 2024