Recently ISRO launched a whopping 104 satellites in one go. It was the 39th fight of the ISRO’s workhorse PSLV which is an impressive achievement adding to the list like becoming first attempt first Asian country to successfully complete Mars Mission, it has successfully tested cryogenic engine becoming only the sixth country to possess that, it’s working on Reusable launching vehicle and all this despite a shoestring budget.
- ISRO achievements have far reaching impacts on both commercial and national security perspective.
- It strengthens India’s credentials in global governance and increases our ability to sit at high tables with such missions.
Reasons for ISRO’s success
- Organizational Structure
- It functions directly under the Prime Minister, with absence of otherwise mandatory layers of bureaucracy present in other PSUs.
- It is headed by the specialists and technocrats starting from Vikram Sarabhai himself rather than generalists. ISRO chairman himself is the chairman of Space Commission and Secretary of Dept. of Space.
- This setup has promoted vertical integration between policy makers, who are in position to understand the long-term projects and delivering end-results.
- It has also kept ISRO aloof from unwanted political interference.
- ISRO also has extremely lean and right-sized organization setup.
- International Cooperation
- ISRO has been able to work with International space agencies and scientific community since inception with some joint projects with NASA, European Space Agency, RosCosomos, CNES, and Israel Space Agency etc.
- Since ISRO has risks of technological projects with long gestational periods – strict financial accountability is not feasible, but with a moderate periodic oversight.
- of Space submits a detailed outcome budget with all the breakdown costs of ISRO Projects.
Given the nature of ISRO’s work and unique organization structure and its institutional structure and several other factors could have factored in too, this may has become possible. There are important lessons to take for other organizations like DRDO.
So far ISRO has demonstrated its mettle in developing socio-economic and development applications like INSAT, IRS, CARTOSAT, RESOURCESAT etc. Now it’s high time, we take ISRO’s contribution to the next level.
Some Policy Suggestions for ISRO
- India has so far believed in using space assets for development applications, and we can no longer ignore security related needs. There has to be a national security strategy as to where we want to go by, say 2030.
- Another Policy aspect w.r.t ISRO is the commercialization and increasing private sector participation.
- India has a talented private sector which must be brought in to maximize the capacity to manufacture as well as launch satellites.
- ISRO can do bit of handholding in the beginning, and we can develop a very fine company like Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
- Globally speaking- Space Debris, potential weaponization of space, cyber arms race in outer space and anti-satellite weapons are becoming major challenges pushing major countries to write new rules of the road.
- India being an established space player now demonstrated by its capabilities recently, should play an active role in the shaping of these policies and not lose an opportunity.
- India should be mindful of efforts by big powers to shape up an NPT like instrument for space domain that may for example ban Anti-Satellite (ASAT) Testing.
- ASAT testing can be demonstrated in a responsible manner, creating least amount of debris and in an orbit that is least damaging.
- India’s demonstration of ASAT capability would have both political and strategic impact in terms of deterrence.
India should heed to evolving challenges and opportunities in outer-space.
- DRDO has failed to emulate the level of success that ISRO has achieved. What are the reasons for the success of ISRO?
- ISRO has demonstrated its muscle in the development applications, critically analyse the ISRO’s success in the security and strategic applications.