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Big bets on India: Amazon, OneWeb, 24 others seek nod for space biz

Within months of India deciding to open up the space sector, at least 22 proposals from Indian firms and institutions and four foreign companies are being formally reviewed by IN-SPACe, the newly formed space regulator. Jeff Bezos’ US-based Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Bharti Group backed UK-based OneWeb are among the firms that have shown interest.

The proposals before IN-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre) range from permissions for ground stations, establishing satellite constellations to making and launching satellites, launch vehicles and providing applications.

K Sivan, secretary, Department of Space (DoS), said: “The fact that so many Indian firms, both big companies like L&T and Bharti Group and startups are progressing well is encouraging and in line with our PM’s vision. Interest from foreign firms like Amazon will also help India become a global space hub.”

AWS, which only announced its new ‘Aerospace and Satellite Solutions’ vertical around the time India cleared decks for IN-SPACe (June 2020), has sought “permission for enabling private space business by making available gateway ground stations as a service”. This would include setting up of ground stations and offering satellite-based services.

OneWeb’s request is to establish a small satellite constellation and provide services, while UAE’s Archeron Group wants assistance for small satellites’ launch and Norway’s Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) wants to set up ground stations.

TOI was the first to report about OneWeb and KSAT proposals in October. OneWeb, backed by Bharti Group, has made its proposal through Bharti Global, and is also in talks for launching some of its satellites on a PSLV.

IN-SPACe, through its interim committee headed by R Umamaheshwaran, scientific secretary, DoS, has already held preliminary technical discussions with AWS, Archeron and KSAT.

Umamaheshwaran told TOI: “AWS proposal is in a nascent stage. On Bharati Global’s proposal, technical discussion is in progress regarding licensing and necessary permission and also production of ground receivers in India. Their proposal to launch one mission of OneWeb series through PSLV is also being studied.”

Among the 24 Indian proposals, Tata’s NELCO has sought support for technology demonstration of Low-Earth Orbit network services, while L&T wants to “undertake end-to-end role in the small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV).”

Multiple startups, Astrome Technologies, Pixxel, Dhruva Space from Bengaluru, Agnikul Cosmos from Chennai and Skyroot Aerospace from Hyderabad have sought permissions for space-based applications, satellite making, launching and development and launch of launch vehicles.

Bengaluru-based Alpha Design has sought technology for small satellites, while Delhi-based MapmyIndia has requested nod for providing services. As reported by TOI, Isro has already signed agreements with Agnikul and Pixxel.

AGNi (Accelerated Growth of New India’s Innovations) spearheaded by India’s Principal Scientific Advisor’s office, Srinivas Institute of Technology (Mangaluru), IIT-B, IIT-M, SpaceKidz India, UnitySat and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham are among institutions who have made proposals with IN-SPACe.

The other firms are: Orbitx India Aerospace (Jaipur), Vellon Space (Madurai), Tamboli Capital (Bhavnagar), Tathya Earth (Mumbai), DFY Graviti Technologies and Orbitable Pvt Ltd in Bengaluru.