Global Space industry revenues are valued at $360 Billion according to market reports. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs estimates that the global space industry could generate revenue of more than $1 trillion by 2040. Bank of America Merrill Lynch sees the space industry growing to $2.7 trillion in 30 years. This growth is enabled by the new technologies, miniaturisation, lowering of costs and increasing demand.
Today, we are seeing the transformation of space-based services from a single-satellite based, limited service to a multi-satellite based global service. This transformation is also enabling automation & production technologies to come into Space system manufacturing & services, with resulting cost, time and quality benefits. Space technology is now accessible to all and is poised to play a greater role in our daily lives tomorrow.
With global connectivity, high-throughput& low latency communication, high-resolution images on demand coupled with enhanced GNSS services, Space industry is poised to capture the imagination of the world! Military applications of space are expected to increase several fold and is expected to generate huge demand for space based services! Space is becoming an industry vertical that no corporate can ignore!
India is a major Space faring nation. Scientific & Societal achievements of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) are respected the world over for their simplicity and cost-effectiveness. ISRO has been successful in developing key technologies for developing complex rocketry systems and applying them for various solutions on the ground. However, India’s share in the commercial space market is only around3%, owing to the lack of capacity to address the commercial demands.
A major application of Space is in Defence. The role of Space capabilities in modern warfare was revealed in the recent conflicts in West Asia. All Space faring nations have embarked on building robust Military Space capabilities. India too has revealed its intent by the creation of a Defence Space Agency.
Military Applications of Space
The formation of Defence Space Agency has created a new chapter in the Indian Space domain. Defence applications have to maintain a high degree of confidentiality and hence indigenous development of defence space products is of great importance.
Communication, weather, target detection, high-energy weaponry, navigation &positioning services, high-resolution remote sensing etc are required for defence purposes. Space Situational Awareness (SSA) is another important area from the security angle. Communication services are used in various command networks, real-time information networks, voice & video calls etc. As more and more weaponries & vehicles get electronically connected to a central network, the demand for high-speed connectivity increases. Also, embedding these on a geo-positioning platform for tracking, co-ordination & command would require high end application software integrated to various types of satellite services and capable of providing adequate analytics and intelligence.
Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPV) are increasingly playing a large role in military operations for surveillance as well as combat operations. This is an evolving area where there is a large scope for space based services. Communication, Remote sensing and GNSS services are expected to be used in a much greater extent tomorrow, for unmanned military operations. Robotic vehicles & RPVs are becoming more and more powerful today, with state-of-the-art drones having a flying time of 42hours and/or carrying capacity of about 1000 Kgs.
Unmanned Vehicles need satellite connectivity for communicating with the control centre, once it is out of range of ground stations. For real-time operations, like actively engaging the enemy using combat vehicles and RPVs, the communication needs to be fast and without any bottle-necks so that the control centre can take quick actions, which are critical. Here, communication services need to be of high throughput and low latency.
Currently, these services are being rendered through Geostationary (GEO) satellites orbiting at about 36000km above the earth. Typically, it will take from480 to 560ms for a signal to travel to a GEO satellite and receive back on earth. A command from USAF’s Nevada control centre is expected to take about 1.2seconds to reach an RPV like Reaper MQ-9 operating in West Asia. Exclusive LEO constellations, having a latency of less than 50ms is essential for the effective utilisation of drone systems in active combat.
In order to implement a full-fledged defence space program, a phased approach at building indigenous capacity is essential. High-end reconnaissance, communication and special purpose satellites and constellations are to be built with home-grown and restricted technology. Looking at the developments in this front there is a grave need for creation of infrastructure, dedicated R&D and realisation of systems in a large scale. Looking at the requirement to complete the task within a short time-frame, it is imperative that a major part of this investment is made in the private sector.
Space is increasingly becoming a critical & strategic tool in modern warfare. Countries like US, China, Russia and France are focusing more on the military side of space. Considering the geo-political scenario, it is important that India also puts more emphasis on developing military space and its deliverables and hand-hold the private sector to enter into this domain.
Space systems have established as an essential tactical asset for national security. Defence Space demands are skyrocketing and there is a need to open up the sector for private participation, with due diligence. With the government showing its intent by creating an exclusive defence space agency, we may be looking at the dawn of a new space resurgence in India.