India’s space sector has come a long way since the establishment of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) since its inception in 1969. ISRO has driven India’s space programme to new heights, evidenced more recently by the launch of milestone space missions like Chandrayaan-1 (2008), Mangalyaan (2013), and Chandrayaan-2 (2019).
In this changing space industry landscape, industries are playing a vital role and contributing to a major share of the global space economy.
The Indian government’s decision to open the space sector for private enterprises, paving the path toward improved public-private partnerships was a significant acknowledgement of this.
The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (INSPACe), an autonomous body to coordinate with industries, was constituted and tasked with promoting space technology, handholding and monitoring those space industries working on the development of India’s space technology.
Last year, many spacetech startups in India including Pixxel, Bellatrix Aerospace, Agnikul, Skyroot and others grabbed investors’ attention and made media headlines.
Sweden and India have had an MoU in Space since 1986 and the area for collaboration was further mentioned in the Sweden-India Joint Action Plan, agreed by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018. The Sweden India Joint Action plan highlights collaboration on space research, technology, innovation and applications.
Last year, the Office of Science and Innovation India along with Business Sweden participated in Bengaluru Tech Summit with a country session called ‘Sweden India Space Technology Collaboration for a Sustainable Future’ to support ongoing and future dialogues between the two countries in the field of space technologies, ground station networks, R&D and Innovations.
The Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) is getting onboard India’s Venus orbiter mission ‘Shukrayaan’ with a scientific instrument to explore the planet. On collaboration in general with India in the field of space has quite a lot to provide, both from its research institutions and from space tech companies.
The space cluster in and around the city of Kiruna offers great opportunities for Indian space start-ups. The three key strengths of Swedish space cluster’s potential: the location, the infrastructure, and the already established ecosystem of actors.
The region is huge, 150 000 square kilometers, and sparsely populated. It provides a big unpopulated testing and impact area with very little air traffic, which is rare in Europe. The northern location at 67°N makes it favorable to launch and communicate with polar satellites and to study space and atmospheric phenomenon such as northern lights.
Despite the size of the area and how sparsely populated it is, the infrastructure is well developed. The Gulf Stream makes the weather mild and there are cities with airports and public transportation. The region provides opportunities for new establishments and expansions, in cities like Kiruna and elsewhere in the region.
Finally, the space cluster has a well-established ecosystem of organizations and international collaboration. With big actors like the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, the Swedish Space Corporation and Luleå University of Technology there is already advanced test, research and launch infrastructure in place.
There is a strong academic foothold including research, master and PhD programs, and a space high school as the starting point in space education; there is a strong industry sector and startup scene, and multiple business supporting actors like the European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre and Aerospace Cluster Sweden, a network for developing small and medium sized enterprises.
In 2020, the Swedish government announced the decision to establish small satellite launch capability at Esrange Space Center, providing unique access to space from European ground. The first phase, to develop and open a testbed for testing new rocket systems, is already successfully concluded.
The new testbed provides a platform for the European and global space sector to develop next generation rocket technologies, and the needed infrastructure for launching small satellites. Sweden will become a launching state, providing a capability of great importance for research, technology development and expanded international collaboration.
Both the government-owned Swedish Institute of Space Physics and Luleå University of Technology have opened their test infrastructure and expertise to external users, and the university last year became part of UNIVERSEH, five European universities partnering in space research and education.
The last few years have seen numerous new startups as well as existing companies branching into space products and services in northern Sweden, and the two German rocket manufacturers Isar Aerospace and Rocket Factory Augsburg have recently established operations in the area.
Recently Ambassador Tanmaya Lal undertook a visit to Kiruna organised by Sweden India Business Council (SIBC). He believes the India-Sweden collaboration within the space sector will lead to new openings: “With the opening up of the space sector in India, there are exciting new opportunities of research and technology collaborations among public and private agencies from our countries. This will build upon the long-standing collaboration projects between ISRO, SSC, IRF and other institutions.”
Sweden and India are also collaborating for the Space Week, EXPO 2020 in Dubai, October 17-23, 2021. Business Sweden has been promoting Business-to-Business (B2B) collaborations between Swedish and India space ecosystems through its multiple collaboration platforms. Business Sweden has been strongly engaging with leading private Indian space companies such as L&T Defence, Godrej Aerospace, Wachandnagar and Mahindra Aerospace with the objective to enhance awareness of Swedish capabilities in space technology. In 2020, Business Sweden supported Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) in setting up a B2B dialogue and mutual collaboration agreement with L&T Defence in strategic areas such as Ground Network Service, launch services, antennas and space surveillance and tracking. Swedish space start-ups being mentored by Business Sweden such as Fureho AB were able to successfully showcase their composite material innovation to ISRO as a next-gen industrial fabric for building spacecrafts
Personally, I am looking forward to my visit to Bengaluru next week where I will meet with senior officials at ISRO to discuss the next steps for our space collaboration.
Find out more about Swedish space week at the Dubai Expo 2020 here – Start page – Expo2020
- Let’s Space
- Let’s Pace
- Let’s Ace
Dr Per-Arne Wikström and Team OSI