NEW DELHI: In order to examine ways and means to boost India’s space defence capabilities, the Indian Space Association (ISpA), which represents the private space industry, and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have organised the first edition of DefSpa, a three-day symposium on space defence here from April 11-13.
According to DefSpa, the idea behind the event is to create a platform for all stakeholders interested in India’s military space capability by bringing together experts from multiple domains to discuss the latest trends and challenges in that domain. The focus will be on delivering space domain awareness and satellite communications to enhance military operations, and to address issues related to securing funding for new space capabilities, expanding international partnerships and developing a Space Defence Strategy in line with the National Space Strategy.
There has been a flurry of activity in this domain after the government opened up space to the private sector in June 2020, with dozens of private players and start-ups registering. Skyroot Aerospace successfully launched Vikram-S, India’s first private rocket, from Sriharikota in November 2022, while Pixxel’s hyperspectral satellite Anand and two radio communication nanosatellites of Dhruva Space were successfully placed in low-earth orbit the same month by ISRO’s PSLV-C54.
India views space as a vital domain in terms of national security and economic development, and seeks to protect its space assets from potential attacks or interference by adversaries. It also wants to deter any hostile actions in space by demonstrating its ability to retaliate.
On March 27, 2019, the DRDO tweeted that it had “successfully launched the Ballistic Missile Defence Interceptor missile, in an Anti-Satellite Missile Test (ASAT) engaging an Indian orbiting target satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in a ‘Hit to Kill’ mode from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island, making it the fourth nation in the world after the U.S., Russia and China to possess this technology. India’s interest in developing space weapons is driven by its perception of the growing threat from China, which has made significant investments in its own space capabilities and has been conducting ASAT tests since 2007.
The need to build such weapons indigenously was driven home after the U.S. denied India GPS data during the Kargil War of 1999 and the sanctions it had imposed earlier under the missile technology control regime to prevent India from getting cryogenic rocket engine technology from Russia in 1993. India successfully launched its own engine in 2014 and deployed its own regional satellite navigation system NAVIC by April 2018.
Today, India is a leader in low-cost space launches, having launched several micro-satellites and small-lift launch vehicles, and aspires to be a global leader by 2030. But given the growing national security threats and challenges as space-based assets become hubs of controlling terrestrial, underwater and aerial combat, India also needs to be able to protect and defend these assets.
To achieve these goals, India has been investing in various space-related projects and institutions, such as the Defence Space Research Agency (DSRA), which was approved by the government in 2019. The DSRA is tasked with developing new technologies and systems for space warfare, such as lasers, jamming devices, manoeuvrable satellites and co-orbital weapons. The DSRA works under the supervision of the Defence Space Agency (DSA), which is a separate military agency set up to coordinate and execute space operations.
Established in December 2020, and formally launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2021, Indian Space Association (ISpA) is the premier industry association of space and satellite companies. It acts as an independent and “single-window” agency for enabling the opening up of the space sector to start-ups and the private sector. The organisation supports space start-ups, and facilitates and enables private companies to work in coordination with Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It also focuses on the creation of space hubs and incubators and capacity building in the country for private space start-ups.