Dissecting India’s Growing Power In the New Space Race

One of India’s strongest assets is its abundant young, tech-savvy workforce.

Images of the India's moon lander
A scaled model of the Vikram lunar lander of India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission in 2023, the country’s third mission to the moon. Pallava Bagla/Getty Images

All signs point towards continued growth in the global space sector. Based on data from mostly the U.S. and Europe, Bank of America expects the global space economy to grow at an annual rate of 10.6 percent to reach about $1.4 trillion in 2030. However, emerging players like China, India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will drive the direction of the global space economy in ways we cannot fully estimate at this time.

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The boundaries between what we have traditionally thought of as space and non-space activities are increasingly blurring. So many of our day-to-day tasks, such as phone service and downloading and processing speeds, are managed and enhanced by satellites. Outer space will soon serve as a tool to create other technologies and products. 

As such, countries are eagerly taking actions to increase their share of the market. India, in particular, is actively establishing itself as a major player in space and has become the 27th nation to sign the Artemis Accords. India currently ranks fifth globally with over 400 space companies. The country’s space economy is expected to grow more than 10 percent within this decade, fueled by the Indian government’s allocation of over $137 billion to space-related industries this year.

Like most countries, India’s space sector was historically government-managed. This is rapidly changing. The Indian Space Policy was amended last year to expand the role of private-sector players in the commercial space sector. The new Space Activities Bill, along with 10 more policies, are under development to provide the necessary regulatory framework and procedural guidelines for private space activities, as well as open new channels for investments and technological support for the sector.

By 2025, space launch will be the fastest-growing segment in India’s space economy, followed by satellite manufacturing. Satellite services will form the largest share of the space economy, accounting for 36 percent, while the launch segment is quickly becoming a focus area for startups and small- to medium-size businesses. 

Over the past five to 10 years, the global space ecosystem has seen significant growth and investment. However, the availability of talent has not increased at a proportional rate. Aerospace engineers and software engineers, in particular, have sought opportunities in other fields in part due to competition from Big Tech employers. There is also a prevailing perception that the space industry is difficult to penetrate, which deters engineers with strong technical skills from applying to space jobs. Consequently, this restricts the recruitment pool.

It’s important to note that one of India’s strongest assets is its abundant young, tech-savvy workforce who could contribute to the innovation needed to create consumer-friendly space technologies. This advantage will provide further acceleration across four aspects of the space value chain: 

  • Primary space research
    India’s rapid and innovative research capabilities allowed it to become the first country to land on the lunar south pole in August 2023 and the fourth country to make a successful soft landing on the Moon. India has also completed these missions at an extremely low cost—the Chandrayan 3 mission only cost $75 million, substantially cheaper than Russia’s Luna-25 mission, which cost $200 million. In fact, the production cost of Chris Nolan’s Interstellar was twice that amount.
  • Launch and logistics
    This includes getting vehicles off the ground and operating in space, driving design for operability, performing satellite maintenance, and managing the flow of materials and services. More countries are seeing the benefits of launching satellites in India. More than 34 countries have worked with India to launch more than 380 satellites, and this number is only likely to increase as more companies and countries leverage innovation and cost advantages.
  • Data and applications
    Such as satellite services and cell phone towers. India has skipped to cellular phones and electronic payments tied to the national identity number, surpassing many other countries. The barriers to developing terrestrial infrastructure were eliminated with the rise of cellular usage and highly affordable smartphones can be used in any regional language. All of this will rapidly accelerate the use of space and Earth observation data, allowing for more data and application businesses to flourish, especially in the areas of supply chain management, real estate and infrastructure investment monitoring.
  • Direct consumer
    India’s growing population of 1.6 billion today will use more data thanks to falling data costs and the elimination of language barriers (mentioned in the prior point). The increase in Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, smart appliances, and other areas like crop and farming support for small individual farmers will allow this segment to grow rapidly in India. 

 

Elizebeth Varghese is the leader of the Space Economy Acceleration team at Deloitte. She is a member of the Board of Trustees for the SETI Institute, co-chair of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Committee, and Board member of the Columbia Business School, Women’s Circle. Varghese is the author of “Stellar Singularity: Navigating the Spacefaring Economy.”

Dissecting India’s Growing Power In the New Space Race