Role of ISRO in the future?

Fortune India did an interview with Chairman, ISRO Dr. S. Somanath. This was one of the exchanges in the interview.

Commercial human space travel is something which private players in some countries are offering. Can ISRO do this?

We can, but it is not our job. It is the job of the industry. ISRO is a national agency. ISRO can develop the technology. But the practice of government funding ISRO to develop technology is going to stop. If a technology is needed, it will be developed by ISRO and industry through government-industry funding. So, now, the industry will have to put money into technology development. They have to do some R&D and develop technology.

This is an interesting comment and perhaps provides an insight into how ISRO thinks of its evolving role in the new space policy regime in India post-2019.

NSIL, the Department of Space’s commercial arm signaled the intention to move to a demand-driven model in the space sector. As an example, GSAT-24 was India’s first demand-driven satellite that NSIL/ISRO built for Tata Play (DTH service provider).

If you read through the whole interview, you can see the lengths to which Somanath goes to protect ISRO’s role while trying to push the idea that industry must lead in the future. This is a new tension for ISRO to hold. I don’t think there is enough clarity on how this will happen for him to communicate the message well.

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