Space activities bill must come into force, says ISRO chief

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Private players can start participating in certain space-sector activities now with the formation of Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) being approved, but the Space Activities Bill will have to come into force for them to start launching missions, said ISRO chairperson Dr K Sivan, in an interview to Hindustan Times.

He said that an assessment of the impact of Covid-19 would be possible only after the situation returns to normal. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had planned several big-ticket missions for the year — India’s first solar mission Aditya L1 in the first half of 2020, another lander-rover mission between November 2020 and the first half of 2021, and the first unmanned mission in December 2020, in preparation for a final manned mission, ahead of the PM’s deadline of Independence Day 2022. Edited excerpts:

How will the newly constituted body, IN-SPACe, function?

There are various verticals of the department of space, such as the ISRO, the autonomous bodies and the PSUs (Public Sector Undertakings). Now, IN-SPACe will be another vertical under the department that will enable private players to carry out space activities. To do so, definitely some systems, like appropriate policies, are required. The Space Activities Bill should comprise this.

We are already working on it — we are trying to modify some existing policies to suit the entry of private players. Also, the frameworks have to be defined.

Also read | Govt ‘unlocks’ space sector, says will promote and guide private players

Can the body function independently in the absence of the Bill?

Some of the activities can be started without the Bill. By then, the Bill will also come in and the picture will come together. But for space launched by the private sector, yes, the Bill would be required.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the missions of ISRO?

The outbreak has definitely impacted our activities, which are mostly dependent on the 500 industries spread across the country. The lockdown has had an impact on that and thereby our, missions. But, we can make an assessment only after the situation becomes normal. In the meantime, some of our centres were producing sanitisers and working on creating ventilator systems. Geo-fencing and mapping were also taking place, using space services.

Also read | Private players can build and launch space missions, says ISRO chief

What about the big-ticket missions like Chandrayaan-3 and Gaganyaan?

We are working on these missions, but as I said, we will only be able to say after an assessment, once the situation becomes normal. The training of the selected astronauts is going on in Russia. There was a break due to Covid-19, but it has resumed and is going on without any problems. The training will take another eight to nine months.

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