Space industry of India


India's space industry is predominantly driven by the national Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).[1] The industry includes over 500 private suppliers and other various bodies of the Department of Space[2] in all commercial, research and arbitrary regards.[3] There are relatively few independent private agencies, though they have been gaining an increased role since the start of the 21st century. In 2019, the space industry of India accounted for $7 billion or 2% of the global space industry and employed more than 45,000 people.[4] Antrix Corporation expects the industry to grow up to $50 billion by 2024 if provided with appropriate policy support.[5]

Integration of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle underway

The Government of India forayed into space exploration when scientists started to launch sounding rockets from Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS), Kerala.[6][7] The establishment of the space agency lead to the development of small launch vehicles SLV-3 and ASLV, followed by larger PSLV and GSLV rockets in the 90s, which allowed India to shift larger payloads and undertake commercial launches for the international market. Private firms started to emerge later as subcontractors for various rocket and satellite components. Reforms liberalising the space sector and nondisclosure agreements came in the late 2010s, leading to the emergence of various private spaceflight companies.

By 2019, India had launched more than 300 satellites for various foreign states.[8] There were more than 40 startups in India in early 2021 in various stages of developing their own launch vehicles, designing satellites and other allied activities.[9][10]


Early decades

India's interest in space travel began in the early 1960s, when scientists launched a Nike-Apache rocket from TERLS, Kerala.[6][7] The Indian National Committee for Space Research was subsequently set up, which later became the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)[11] functioning under a new independent Department of Space in the 1970s under the Prime Minister of India.[12][13]

ISRO joined the Interkosmos program to launch its first satellite, Aryabhata, from the former Soviet Union in 1975.[14]

SLV-3, a locally developed space rocket, was introduced in 1979, enabling India to undertake orbital launches.[15] Experience gained from SLV-3 was used to develop an Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle to develop technologies for launching satellites in geostationary orbit, but this ended up having very limited success and was eventually discontinued.[16] However, the study of a homegrown medium-lift launch vehicle went on, which lead to the realisation of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).[17]

Introduction of PSLV and commercial space missions

Antrix Corporation was set up in 1992 to market ISRO's technology, launch services and transfer technology to Indian private firms, dawning the commercial space sector in India.[18] The PSLV rocket, introduced in 1993, enabled India to launch its polar satellites. Despite initial failures in its first two flights, PSLV had no further failures and emerged as ISRO's primary workhorse for launching domestic and foreign satellites.[19][20] The development of GSLV and GSLV Mk III subsequently began in the 1990s and 2000s to attain the capability to launch communication satellites. However, the launchers didn't become operational until decades later, as India initially faced a great problem in the development of cryogenic engines.[21][22][23] Later, NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) replaced Antrix as the commercial arm of ISRO.[24]

Emergence of the private sector

The Indian space program emerged as an economic sector with government-backed investments with official institutions in the military and civilian administrations over decades of engineering. Over four decades, ISRO continued transferring technologies to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), leading to there being over 500 suppliers of various components in 2017.[25]

In 1980s, various foreign multinational companies started to work with Indian firms to market their geospatial products in India. India's IT industry started engaging in this sector in the 1990s. The Department of Space actively promoted the growth of the sector, leading to the establishment of the manufacturing of various systems. Large mapping projects for various civilian and military requirements were outsourced by the government, which drove the growth of India's private space sector. However, the private sector still played a supporting role, while the government continued to dominate the space sector.[26]

In the late 2010s, a large number of startups started to emerge throughout the country with their own proposals and concepts to develop various satellite technologies and rockets.[27][28][29]

A range of initiatives to deregulate the private space sector were introduced by Narendra Modi's cabinet in June 2020, and the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (INSPACe) was established for incubating technology into private firms, known as Non-Government Private Entities (NGPEs) by DOS.[30][31] NGPEs were included as a crucial part of ISRO's Space Communication Policy draft issued in October 2020.[32] As of 2021, a new Space Activities Bill and a space policy are being drafted by NALSAR Centre for Aerospace and Defence laws to regulate space manufacturing and the legal aspects of the industry in India.[33][34]

Throughout this time, various nondisclosure agreements and tech transfers have been taking place between ISRO and private entities.[35][36]


ISRO and DOS continue to remain dominant in the national space sector, having launched more than 100 domestic and more than 300 foreign satellites for 33 countries,[8] while private firms have gradually been gaining ground.[1][2][3] In 2019, the space industry of India accounted for $7 billion or 2% of the global space industry and employed more than 45,000 people.[4][31] Antrix Corporation expects the industry to grow up to $50 billion by 2024 if provided with appropriate policy support.[5]

In February 2020, there were 35 startups that came up in the space sector, of which three focused on designing rockets, 14 on designing satellites, and the rest on drone-based applications and services sector. The number further grew to over 40 in January 2021.[9][10] Two companies, Skyroot Aerospace and AgniKul Cosmos, have tested their own engines and are in advanced stages of developing their own launch vehicles,[37][38] while others have their launchers in the production pipeline and have launched satellites using ISRO rockets.

List of notable companies

Major conglomerates and organisations
Name Established Ownership Services Portals
Antrix Corporation 1992 State-owned
  • Satellite systems
  • Launch vehicles
  • Technology and consultancy
Godrej Aerospace 1897 Private [2]
Larsen & Toubro 1938 Private [3]
NewSpace India Limited 2019 State-owned
  • Satellite systems
  • Launch vehicles
  • Technology and consultancy
Other notable companies and startups
Name Established Ownership Services Ref(s)
AgniKul Cosmos 2017 Private Launch vehicles [5]
Bellatrix Aerospace 2015 Private [6]
Dhruva Space 2012 Private Satellites [7]
Pixxel 2019 Private Earth imaging [8]
Satellize 2018 Private Satellites [9]
Skyroot Aerospace 2018 Private Launch vehicles [10]
Azista Aerospace 2019 Private Satellites [11]

See also


  1. ^ a b Pardoe 1987, pp. 14.
  2. ^ a b Sadeh 2013, pp. 303-.
  3. ^ a b ltd, Research and Markets. "Evolving Indian Space Ecosystem Attracting New Space Participants in the Industry, 2020".
  4. ^ a b Babu, Peerzada Abrar Samreen Ahmad & Gireesh (26 June 2020). "India's aerospace start-ups eye rocket launches and planetary missions". Business Standard India – via Business Standard.
  5. ^ a b Narasimhan, TE (31 January 2020). "Space sector can hit $50 bn by 2024, needs policy support: Antrix-PwC study". Business Standard. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  6. ^ a b "The dawn of a new space race?". BBC News. 14 October 2005. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Transported on a Bicycle, Launched from a Church: The Amazing Story of India's First Rocket Launch". The Better India. 8 November 2016. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Isro milestone: 300 satellites from 33 nations put in space in 20 years". Times of India. 28 November 2019.
  9. ^ a b "'Startups to play key role in Indian space industry'". Hindustan Times. 28 February 2020.
  10. ^ a b "India lagging behind US, China in space sector; over 40 start-ups working with govt: Economic Survey". Deccan Herald. 29 January 2021.
  11. ^ "Isro's golden jubilee: 50 years of space explorations". Archived from the original on 17 August 2019. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  12. ^ "Department of Space and ISRO HQ - ISRO". Archived from the original on 28 March 2019. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  13. ^ Sadeh 2013, pp. 303.
  14. ^ "Aryabhata – ISRO". Archived from the original on 15 August 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  15. ^ "First Successful Launch of SLV-3 - Silver Jubilee" (PDF). ISRO.
  16. ^ Menon, Amarnath (15 April 1987). "Setback in the sky". India Today. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  17. ^ "Indian ambitions in space go sky-high". New Scientist. 22 January 1981. p. 215.
  18. ^ "Antrix responsible for marketing ISRO tech". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 26 April 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  19. ^ "India (Launchers)". Spacecraft Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  20. ^ "PSLV". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  21. ^ "GSLV Launched Successfully" (PDF). Current Science. 80 (10): 1256. May 2001. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  22. ^ Subramanian, T S (17–31 March 2001). "The GSLV Quest". Frontline. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  23. ^ "India's GSLV Mk-3 First Flight Pushed Back to April 2014". Sawfnews. 4 April 2013. Archived from the original on 10 April 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  24. ^ "New Company for Commercial Exploitation of Research and Development (Under The Company Act 2013)". Press Information Bureau. 27 June 2019. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  25. ^ Rajagopalan & Prasad 2017, pp. 1–2.
  26. ^ Rajagopalan & Prasad 2017, pp. 54.
  27. ^ Singh, Abhinav (2 July 2017). "Space no bar". The Week. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  28. ^ Ravikumar, Sachin; Shakil, Ismail (23 June 2019). "India's space startups ignite investor interest". LiveMint. Retrieved 4 March 2021 – via Reuters.
  29. ^ Arakali, Harichandan (9 September 2019). "Space-tech startups in India are gaining ground". Forbes India. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  30. ^ "India opens space sector to private players: What it means for ISRO". Financial Express. 26 June 2020. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
    b) "Emerging trend in Space Sector".;
    c) "Opening Up Indian Space Sector For Private Sector –Reforms".;
    d) "Space Activities By NGPEs".;
    e) "Enabling Mechanism For NGPEs To Carry Out Space Activities".;
    Indian Space Research Organisation - Government of India. Retrieved on 4 March 2021.
  32. ^ No.C.19013/48/2012-Sec.3 (Vol.III) Spacecom Policy - 2020 and Spacecom NGP-2020 (PDF) (Report). Department of Space. 15 October 2020. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  33. ^ "Space policy, Space Activities Bill in final stages: ISRO chairman". The Economic Times. 5 July 2020. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  34. ^ Reddy, V Balakista (30 September 2020). "'Space Activities Bill reflects years of research … it will bring clarity and synergy to both Indian and foreign companies'". The Times of India (Interview). Interviewed by Preeti Biswas. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  35. ^ "In a first of ISRO's history, it tests its first private satellite". News Bharati. 12 February 2021.
  36. ^ "Non-Disclosure Agreement signed with M/s Agnikul". ISRO - Government of India. 3 December 2020. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  37. ^ "Skyroot tests solid propulsion rocket engine, aims at a rocket by 2021 end". The Economic Times. 28 December 2020. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  38. ^ "Agnikul Cosmos fires single-piece, 3D printed rocket engine". MoneyControl. 11 February 2021. Retrieved 4 March 2021.


  • Pardoe, Geoffrey Keith Charles (1987). Space Industry International: Markets, Companies, Statistics and Personnel. Longman. ISBN 978-0-582-00314-9.
  • Sadeh, Eligar (2013). Space Strategy in the 21st Century: Theory and Policy. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-136-22623-6. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2021.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  • Rajagopalan, Rajeshwari Pillai; Prasad, Narayan (2017). Space India 2.0: Commerce, Policy, Security and Governance Perspectives. Observer Research Foundation. ISBN 978-81-86818-28-2.