ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Space industry and challenges

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Opportunities and challenges in outer space

The article analyses opportunities and challenges the outer space technology offers to us.

Emerging trends in space industry

  • The price for reaching low Earth orbit has declined by a factor of 20 in a decade.
  • It enhances human space travel possibilities by leveraging new commercial capabilities.
  • According to a Bank of America Report, the $350 billion space market today will touch $2.7 trillion by 2050.
  • Starlink, the constellation being constructed by SpaceX to provide global Internet access, plans more than 10,000 mass-produced small satellites in low Earth orbit. 
  •  In a decade, 80,000 such satellites could be in space compared to less than 3,000 at present.
  • Companies such as Planet, Spire Global and Iceye are using orbital vantage points to collect and analyse data to deliver fresh insights in weather forecasting, global logistics, crop harvesting and disaster response.
  • Space could prove attractive for high-tech manufacturing too.
  • In short, an exciting new platform is opening up for entrepreneurs.

3 Challenges

1) Governance of outer space

  • Framework for governance of outer space as it becomes democratised, commercialised and crowded is becoming obsolescent.
  • The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 enshrines the idea that space should be “the province of all mankind” and “not subject to national appropriation by claims of sovereignty”.
  • The Rescue Agreement, Space Liability Convention, and the Space Registration Convention expanded provisions of the Outer Space Treaty.
  • The Moon Treaty of 1979 was not ratified by major space-faring nations.
  • Space law does not have a dispute settlement mechanism, is silent on collisions and debris, and offers insufficient guidance on interference with others’ space assets.
  • These gaps heighten the potential for conflict in an era of congested orbits and breakneck technological change.

2) Acknowledging role of non-state entities

  • The legal framework related to outre space is state-centric, placing responsibility on states alone.
  • However, non-state entities are now in the fray for commercial space exploration and utilisation.
  • Some states are providing frameworks for resource recovery through private enterprises.
  • Some scholars and governments view this as against the principle of national non-appropriation, violating the spirit if not the letter of the existing space law.
  • The lack of alignment of domestic and international normative frameworks risks a damaging free-for-all competition for celestial resources involving actors outside the space framework.

3) The arms race in outer space

  • The space arms race is difficult to curb, especially since almost all space technologies have military applications.
  • For example, satellite constellations are commercial but governments could acquire their data to monitor military movements.
  • Investment in technologies that can disrupt or destroy space-based capabilities is under way.
  • Despite concerns about military activity in outer space for long, not much progress has been made in addressing them.
  • The UN General Assembly passes a resolution on Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space since 1982.
  • The current geopolitical situation does not hold hope for addressing concerns of a space arms race.

Need for space legislation in India

  • India has invested enormous resources in its space programme through the Indian Space Research Organisation.
  • More importantly, our space assets are crucial for India’s development.
  • The proposed involvement of private players and the creation of an autonomous body IN-SPACe for permitting and regulating activities of the private sector are welcome efforts.
  • However, the space environment that India faces requires us to go beyond meeting technical milestones.
  • We need a space legislation enabling coherence across technical, legal, commercial, diplomatic and defence goals.

Consider the question “Outer space technology is expanding its horizon day by day. However, there are certain challenges the expansion of the space technology faces. What are these challenges and suggest ways to deal with such challenges.”

Conclusion

Our space vision also needs to address global governance, regulatory and arms control issues. As space opens up our space vision needs broadening too.

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