No Room for Smug Space Com­pla­cency

Our own GPS is wel­come but chal­lenges re­main

The Economic Times - - Breaking Ideas -

In­dia’s space sci­en­tists have de­liv­ered yet again. With the suc­cess­ful launch of the sev­enth and fi­nal of the satel­lites that form the In­dian Re­gional Nav­i­ga­tion Satel­lite Sys­tem, the coun­try has a global po­si­tion­ing sys­tem of its own over In­dia and its neigh­bour­hood. The ob­vi­ous ad­van­tage is strate­gic. Over this re­gion, In­dia does not have to de­pend on the satel­lite ser­vices of any other power to track or guide the move­ment of things on the ground, in the water or in the air. But this is not enough. If In­dia wants to have a blue-water navy, its nav­i­ga­tion ca­pa­bil­ity will have to be global, not re­gional. Fur­ther, it is far from clear that such satel­lites or, at the least, com­mu­ni­ca­tion with such satel­lites is im­per­vi­ous to dis­rup­tion by hos­tile el­e­ments.

Hav­ing to run faster to stay in the same place is some­thing that com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket are fa­mil­iar with. In­dia’s space pro­gramme has to get used to the idea. With Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Be­zos’ Blue Ori­gin rock­ets prov­ing vi­able, In­dia faces fresh com­pe­ti­tion in the low-cost space launch mar­ket. Not only that, In­dia’s nav­i­ga­tional edge can be matched by a re­gional ri­val by mak­ing use of bur­geon­ing, cheap com­mer­cial launch ser­vices to put in place the ap­pro­pri­ate satel­lites. In­dia has to throw open its satel­lite mar­ket, un­bundling the gov­ern­ment’s pol­i­cy­mak­ing, reg­u­lat­ing and op­er­a­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and al­low­ing the pri­vate sec­tor room to op­er­ate. Satel­lites have to play a big­ger role to en­able cheap spread of broad­band to ru­ral ar­eas in the BharatNet frame­work. This does not mean that the na­tional space agency should take it easy. Given its track record, it should re­ceive stepped-up fund­ing and an ex­panded man­date to think bolder and big­ger.

Since the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion threw open the US satel­lite po­si­tion­ing sys­tem to civil­ian use, a whole new range of ser­vices us­ing GPS came into be­ing, never imag­ined by the mil­i­tary plan­ners who cre­ated the GPS. Free­ing up satel­lite ca­pa­bil­i­ties can yield sim­i­lar riches in In­dia, too. The point is to not rest on the coun­try’s space lau­rels, com­mend­able as they are.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.