As the world enters the Second Space Age, an Indo-Emirati space partnership can be a lodestar for others. However, it is only the people-to-people connect and the diversity of the innovation linkages between the Emirati and Indian diaspora, that can truly make it a success for science and citizens, and help achieve their aspirations for the 21st century.
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COVID-19 has accelerated internet usage and is making digital infrastructure even more indispensable globally. India is actively laying this critical infrastructure on the ground, but is yet to work on the strategic ‘last-mile’ connectivity space-based ICT and 5G plus services. U.S. and China have fast-tracked this, and India should immediately implement the recent space reforms to be regarded as a significant player.
The government’s recent reforms in the space sector have unleashed the imagination, innovation and potential of Indian space start-ups. Strong support from the private sector and inherent Indian technological aptitude will help them fuel India’s space ambitions and economic growth in the 21st Century.
The launch of the U.S.’s Dragon-2 astronaut capsule by SpaceX has a resonance in India too. India’s future heavy-lift launchers, already under development, can be competitive if they are transformed to Two-Stage-To-Orbit and made reusable. The successors to Gaganyaan, Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan, developed in public-private partnerships, can result in a vast domestic launch market for India’s heavy-lift rocket capability.
Under the ‘Artemis Accords’ the U.S. is planning an international coalition to extract natural resources from the Moon. China is concurrently planning an Earth-Moon Special Economic Zone. India’s antiquated endorsement of the 1979 Moon Agreement is shackling its true potential for economics-driven space exploration. India must immediately do away with Cold-War era, vintage whims of global commons.
The COVID19-caused migration of India’s large workforce to their rural roots holds immense promise for the country’s agriculture productivity and farmer incomes. Precision agritech and satellite-as-a-service (SAAS) can reduce the urban-rural skill, remuneration, and digital divide. Time to privatize space technology for agricultural benefit.
India’s preparedness in the decade of the 2020s for the imminent revolution in space affairs depends on mastering Industry 4.0. This is critical as space aspirations now define national interests – a marked change from the vanity-and-pride programmes of the first space age. This will also determine India’s space leadership for the rest of the 21st century
On 15 July, the Indian space programme will achieve a feat with the Chandrayaan-2 mission. Two challenges lie ahead: the speedy construction of Chandrayaan-3 and the development of a public-private ecosystem of space capabilities
The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation (BECA), the last of the India-U.S. foundational agreements, will enable India to avail of U.S. expertise on geospatial intelligence and to sharpen the accuracy of weapons and automated hardware systems used for military purposes. But the over-emphasis on imaging in the agreement overlooks the likelihood of a clash between the telecom and meteorological technologies, which can hurt India’s crucial capabilities in space-based weather forecasting and disaster management
With Misson Shakti, India is now part of a rarefied club of global space powers which have demonstrated capability for missile-based anti-satellite weapons