By Tanuj Mittal
The modern space age or entrepreneurial space age, has been in the making for a few years. It is expanding rapidly and is no longer exclusive to government agencies. It is estimated that the global space economy will touch US$600b by 2025. Today, private companies are successfully tapping this potential and taking giant strides in space tourism, exploration, and satellite technology. Plans are already underway to make space tourism accessible to everyone. There’s hope that one day, we will have the infrastructure and technology to establish permanent human settlements in deep space. The possibilities are infinite so are the questions. What impact does space travel have on the human body? How can space travel be made safer and more sustainable? How to reduce the shuttle debris littering the space?
The entrepreneurial space age seeks to answer these questions and many more. Taking insights from the inspiring history of human spaceflight, companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, OneWeb, and Virgin Galactic are paving the path for private organizations to explore commercial opportunities in the new space age.
In India, the space sector has grown tremendously over the last decade. It has played a crucial role across a wide range of application areas like satellite broadcasting, weather forecasting, geological studies, disaster management, and agriculture, to name a few. So far, the industry has been under the purview of the government, with limited private intervention. However, with advancement in technology, the proliferation of data, etc., which has further driven commercialization, the government of India has brought in systemic reforms to facilitate the participation of private players. The opening-up of the space economy to private companies is now bridging the digital divide, boosting space-based innovation, and catapulting India to the forefront of the space tech race.
With the space economy in India estimated to reach US$13b at a CAGR of 6% by 2025, the new space era seems to be thriving both in terms of innovation and business. However, there is a pressing need for organizations to choose the right path, especially one inclined toward sustainable development. Sustainability is not only important for our planet but also for space exploration. True, the growth in the space sector has generated new business opportunities, but it has also led to sustainability challenges both on Earth and in space, in the form of greenhouse gas emissions and orbital debris. Exploring these areas could lead to massive improvement in our space exploration practices.
It is no secret that the space industry in India, with its stringent regulations and emphasis on safety, has historically had long lead times for embracing innovations. However, times are now changing. Rapid innovation has become integral to matching the present market demand, and now, it’s crucial to get it right the first time.
New technologies such as additive manufacturing and 3D printing are revolutionizing the space industry by reducing wastage and facilitating faster and more efficient production. Similarly, digital simulation and virtual twins have emerged as the most valuable tools for design solutions and equipment after assessing thousands of technical hypotheses in a digital environment. Creating a virtual twin enables the evaluation of numerous scenarios for sustainable and cost-effective production of space equipment and satellite systems with faster delivery. In line with the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ vision, Indian startup Agnikul Cosmos launched the world’s first fully 3D-printed rocket engine, ‘Agnilet’.
Also, India-based Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) design and development company, General Aeronautics is leveraging a cloud-based platform that offers access to digital design and simulation applications in a single, secure environment. Similarly, IIT Madras incubated space tech startup GalaxEye aims to build India’s first commercial multi-sensor constellation of satellites, expected to launch in 2023. It is a prime example of how technology is helping leading aerospace companies to navigate through the complexities of their systems by leveraging a centralized digital environment for product development, thereby cutting down production timelines.
Today, several companies in India, both small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups, are leveraging cutting-edge technologies to develop innovative space solutions in India. Speed of innovation remains to be one of the most crucial elements here. By integrating digital technology into development, organizations can augment the product lifecycle from concept to take-off and attain a first-to-market advantage. Given the complexity and challenges involved, India is slowly embracing the “whole nation approach” to harness the untapped potential that the Indian space sector holds.
The author is Senior Director, Customer Process Experience, Dassault Systèmes India
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