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Complementing, Not Competing with Each Other

The collaborative approach adopted by the Indian companies will enable them bag more international contracts and attract foreign OEMs, explains SM Vaidya, Executive Vice President and Business Head, Godrej Aerospace, in an interview to Geospatial World.

It has been roughly over a year since the Government of India announced Space reforms to encourage private participation in Space. What has changed on the ground in terms of innovation, investment and opportunities, and what does the future hold?

The gestation period for any such major decision, particularly for Space projects run solely by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) under the Department of Science (DOS), is high. In my opinion, it is too early for us to see a visible impact on ground. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down all activities, limited the funds, and hampered the approvals necessary for projects that were identified for private participation. From zero involvement of private industry in project management, materials management, design simulation analysis, final integration assembly testing launch to handing over the complete program, it is a big step which will require adherence to several international treaties.

For all these years, the industry was involved in manufacturing and pre-assemblies or at the most, setting up a few ground test facilities. So, moving forward, private players will have a lot to learn. I think the industry has understood this and without waiting for a formal announcement, it has started preparing for larger responsibilities that will be shared in the near future. The formation of consortiums, clusters and joint ventures is on the cards, while micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and startups are progressing well and attracting investments. Space companies from all over the globe are actively exploring possible partnerships in India.

Has the creation of IN-SPACe successfully bridged the gap between the government and private companies, and what kind of challenges does the industry face today?

As I have mentioned earlier, it is too early for IN-SPACe to bring in a visible difference, but the approach has been well received by the industry. ISRO will be focussing on research and development (R&D) and IN-SPACe will manage production and provide services which were earlier provided by ISRO. This will encourage private participation, though the extent of privatization is not yet clear as the policy on intellectual property is still awaited.

For all these years, the industry was involved in manufacturing and pre-assemblies or at the most, setting up a few ground test facilities. So, moving forward, private players will have a lot to learn. I think the industry has understood this and without waiting for a formal announcement, it has started preparing for larger responsibilities that will be shared in the near future

Can you share a few emerging trends in the Indian Space sector, and how are they in line with the global trends?

A substantial number of startups along with the readiness of the industry to take bigger risks is a good sign. Focusing not only on what is produced in India, but also on what is currently being imported is another significant change which is in line with the global trend. This will bring in more Indian content and will ensure sustainability. The Indian companies have clearly understood that there is no point in competing with each other, and so, they have started complementing each other. This collaborative approach will take care of the problem of lower volumes at higher investments. Further, the Indian companies will be able to bag more international contracts, and will attract foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to invest in India.

Can you throw light on your company in terms of its history, current projects and future plans?

Godrej started its Aerospace journey in 1985. In over three decades, we have learned how to develop technologies, create infrastructure, and train manpower for liquid engines, satellite thrusters and control module components. Godrej Aerospace contributed to the prestigious Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan missions, amongst others. We developed 7.5 meters Remote Sensing antennas for ground stations. Currently, we are developing semi-cryogenic subsystems and high-thrust satellite propulsion systems with ISRO and are also supporting startups in developing green propulsion. Our operations are expanding to a new location near Mumbai, with a greenfield project for advance manufacturing and assembly and integration facilities. We are also setting up capabilities for build-to-spec and ground testing facilities. This will help us participate in both R&D and production phases. We are also investing in state-of-the-art facilities for manufacturing and upgrading our execution systems with Internet of Things (IoT).

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