India and space laws: A millennium perspective THE LAUNCH of Sputnik 1 by the former Soviet Union in 1957, followed by a similar feat by the U. S., within a few months, heralded the birth of the space age. The development and application of space technology has since made a tremendous global impact in diversified fields including social, economic, cultural and scientific.
The early efforts of the Indian space programme in the Sixties were confined to getting familiar with space technologies, and developing technical and organisational infrastructure in order to develop satellites and satellite launch vehicles.
During the Seventies, they were primarily geared towards carrying out research and development in a variety of scientific and engineering disciplines for launch vehicles and satellites. During the Eighties, the space programme moved closer to realising the goal of self- reliant use of space technology for national development. With the launching of Bhaskara II, SLV-3, APPLE in the early Eighties, the programme entered the operational stage to provide space services in communications, metereology and remote sensing and development of launch vehicles. The INSAT-1 series of communication satellites and the IRS series of remote sensing satellites were operationalised for well- defined applications.
Significantly, all operational satellites of the Eighties were indigenously designed. The Indian space programme was conceived with three crucial components: applications, satellites which would make the applications possible, and launch vehicles to put satellites into orbit. India entered the nineties with the launch of more ASLV and PSLV launchers. With the launch of IRS-IB and INSAT 2A and 2B, the Indian space programme becomes fully operational through its own communication and remote sensing satellites.
Now India is one of the six countries with homemade satellites in orbit. The Indian space programme has an impressive array of achievements in putting to use space technology for vital applications - for telecommunications, TV broadcasting, weather watching, forecasting agricultural crop and forest wealth assessment, water resources management, flood mapping, drought forecasting, identification of marine resources, protection of the environment and rural literacy campaign. India also benefited significantly from international co-operation since the establishment of TERLS in 1962 to the present GSLV preparations.
The new economic policies since the early nineties have opened up even the space sector for private investments. The realisation of a number of operational satellite systems in the areas of communications, remote sensing as well as space science, operational launch capability, large scale utilisation of these systems for a variety of applications, initiation of major application projects - such as the Integrated Mission for Sustainable Development (IMSD) covering more than 170 districts and nearly 60 per cent of the total geographical area - led to the next stage of commercialisation and partnership building with the private sector.
Besides national accomplishments, India could also get recognised in the international arena as one of the major space faring nations, which in turn opened up global opportunities and demand for Indian services. The Antrix Corporation, the commercial wing of ISRO deals with the transfer of technology developed under the Indian space programme to Indian industry and provides consultancy services. It also co-ordinates the space hardware and software products among ISRO and Indian industry involved in the space programme. A significant accomplishment in this regard is the global marketing of Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) data and consequent establishment of associated infrastructure in association with Indian industry in the private sector.