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India’s space mission: a Business Perspective

Authored by Vivek Dwivedi
(Further reading and reference  : ISRO WEBSITE,DISCOVER magazine…….March 2012 issue,

The Indian Economy Blog)

http://business.outlookindia.com/article_v3.aspx?artid=101685

 
"Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed…………………..(Neil Armstrong)

That's one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind……………(Neil Armstrong)

Roger, Tranquility. Be advised there are lots of smiling faces in this room and all over the world. Over…………………………( Charlie Duke)”

These transcripts of the interaction bertween Niel Armstrong and the base station on earth,are saved in the golden words of the world history.it provided a big motivation and dream of conquering the space.

 

 

For India,

The debate is inevitable,a country with a significant population struggling to satisfy its basic needs, with a current GDP hovering over by about 5 % .can it afford to allocate its  fund and resources to  its expanding and gradually increasing space programs.Is this investment in space missions justified in a stature of developing economy or the focus should be to ensure that the general population first achieves its stature in terms of a strong economy ,increase its GDP and then space technological progress can be made.

The opportunity cost of the funds utilized for space exploration is a matter of debate,as viewed from a myopic view and a long term view.

Should these funds be allocated to meet the primary requirements of food and education .the scenario in which the Indian PM himself has called it as national shame where 45 % of kids are malnourished.

Two interesting arguments posed by leading Economists in this context:

One argument against the allocation of the funds for space programs by Jean Dreze goes as

“I don’t understand the importance of India sending a space mission to Mars when half of its children are undernourished and half of all Indian families have no access to sanitation,It seems to be part of the Indian elite’s delusional quest for superpower status.”

                However a very interesting argument is posed by yet another   Economist Dambisa Moyo writes on allocation and providing aids,he points out that these kind of allocation for primary needs will not help in long run.he says,

“Yet evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that aid to Africa has made the poor poorer, and the growth slower. … Over the past 60 years at least $1 trillion of development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Yet real per-capita income today is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50% of the population — over 350 million people — live on less than a dollar a day, a figure that has nearly doubled in two decades.”

 

Evolved from a vision of Dr Vikram sarabhai and Prof Satish Dhawan,the indian space community has evolved much from its nascent stage in four decades.it has gone a series of changes,advancing in its programmes and visions.in the earlier stage,where the focus was on basic research ……the indian space program has went way ahead ,to yield commercial benefits.

The Chandrayan mission alone had approximately incurred a cost of 386 crore rupees.the next project is Mangalayan wher the focus is on research involving surface of Mars.

Investment in pure and applied science does not gives immediate return but provides a long term returns after a certain period of time.It appreciates patience for yielding results and returns.

In the short term,it yield benefits termed as spin off benfits.

                The space program expediates the research in material science and efficient technology.The advantage of this new materials and technologies can be utilized in other  fields such as medical science and engineering. The development of integrated circuits ,electronics and computer technology  can be owed to the space programs and developmental activities by NASA.

Till today,ISRO has transferred more than 300 technologies to industry.It makes sense and justifies to invest good money on a space program if it can generate technologies which Indian industry can commercialize. The patent royalties and the infrastructure will yield return by rendering services to other countries.
About 40 companies have contributed to Chandrayaan-1. Companies like Tata Advanced Material, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and L&T built the body and solar panel array elements (which power the craft). A clutch of small companies made myriad components like heat pipes, ground fixtures and power packages—critical components that have no scope for error.

They are all part of the troupe of about 100 Indian companies in the private sector—big (the Tatas, L&T and Godrej) and small (Walchandnagar Foundry, Venkateshwara Engineering and Shoma Industries)—that have been quietly powering the country's space ambitions……………………..( reference business outlook)

         

At the same instant, it boosts the defence technology and research with the spinoffs .so it provides a strategic advantage.commercial exploitation of space technology has become the new business.

 ISRO’s major launches and projects, have  their strong  applications focus, primary examples being the IRS (Indian Remote Sensing) network of satellites, METSAT (Meteorological), CARTOSAT (for mapping), EDUSAT (for satellite-based education) among others.

These services made the country self reliable in the field of broadcasting,disaster warning, meteorology , telecommunication and disaster warning.

Television in India now reaches about 85 percent of its population through over 1,000 TVtransmitters linked via INSAT. Educationalprogrammes of over 100 hours are telecast everyweek. The INSAT system has become a powerfultool for training and developmental education andis used by various agencies to provide continuingeducation, conduct in-situ training for industrialemployees, social welfare personnel and training ofPanchayat Raj(village governance) workers.

 

The national investment to sustain the space programme not only provides a significant and profitable domestic market for Indian industry, butalso helps it to acquire technological muscle to enlarge its capability for increasing the value-addedcomponent in other areas and eventually capture apart of the growing international market in high technology applications.

It provides a support to economy by one hand developing a team of skilled resources of people,researchers and engineers .to meet the demand of national space program,allied industries have cropped to support .

 A large number of systems required on ground, such as remote sensing dataprocessing equipment, communication earth stationsand terminal equipment, have opened up a fairlylarge market for industry.

The setting up of an exclusive commercial front, the ANTRIX Corporation, under Departmentof Space, in 1992, for marketing hardware and services has acted as a catalyst in this endeavour.Important commercial agreements include worldwide marketing of remote sensing data from Indiansatellites, lease of satellite capacity, launch of small satellites on board PSLV, supply of satellite hardware, providing tracking support for satellites usingIndian ground stations and training of personnel.

 At the end,I would like to conclude science and research has its own beauty and curiosity.at one instance these projects ,provide a dream , vision and pride  to the country at the other instance it assures a proper future developmental plan, placing the country in a confident position among other countries of the world.spending money only to reduce poverty can provide no significant result ,unless and until a way is found out that can generate returns.

                                                                                                                                                Vivek Dwivedi

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