Space newbies on LinkedIn – Do this, not that

Anybody trying to build a career in the space industry must have sent a LinkedIn connect to strangers with interesting profiles and asked for their advice or sometimes even help.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this on LinkedIn, after all, that’s exactly what makes LinkedIn so awesome. I myself get a dozen messages every week from mostly students and young professionals seeking career advice and I try to respond to all of them. Except for the ones which sound like the following:

Hi. My name is ***I am currently doing ***.
What is the procedure to get into *** course at *** University?
How are the career prospects? What GRE score is needed for this course?
Which clg did you short-list?
What are the regulations for non-citizens? Are there any language barriers?

Just to be clear, I am stranger to this person and this is the person’s first message to me. After about 100 messages like this from even seemingly well-traveled professionals and international students, this post seemed inevitable. It was quite annoying to see how people take others’ time for granted in sending such impolite random queries.

But on the off chance that these budding space professionals are somehow unaware of basic social etiquette, I decided to share some pointers on how to ask strangers for help on LinkedIn and actually get a response.

So if you’ve been having a tough time getting a response to your messages on LinkedIn, this post might be of help. If you find them cool enough to ask for help, then they must be busy enough to simply ignore your messages. They might glance at that message notification and those 2 seconds are your chance to make an impression. Remember, you are the only beneficiary to this interaction, that person won’t get anything from answering you. They will only respond out of humanity, if at all, and only to professional sounding messages.

The following are a few guidelines to add more value to your message (LinkedIn, Email, other) before you click that send button:

1) Introduce yourself. Even if you had met that other person previously, introduce yourself again and mention how exactly you met or knew each other. If they cannot place you immediately, they will ignore or postpone answering and eventually forget all about it.

2) Write a sentence or two why exactly you are asking that particular person that particular thing. Just so it doesn’t seem like you are bombarding all your LinkedIn contacts with the same message.

3) Do a simple google search before asking for any information. Or check the website of the university (regarding a course) or company (regarding a job/position). If still not found, then send that message but do mention where and how all you have tried to look for the information. This shows that you had indeed put in some efforts and not using this person as your personal Google.

4) Use the magic words ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’. Acknowledge the other person’s time and efforts in even reading your message.  The space industry is a small world that highly values teamwork, most times even over personal brilliance. Nobody wants to be around an entitled person and here word spreads quickly.

5) English language skills might not be everyone’s forte but bad grammar and spelling are always off-putting, even to non-native speakers. If you can use LinkedIn, then you can certainly get a grammar/spelling check done on your message (online for free).

6) Don’t ask vague questions such as ‘What is the difference in work culture there and here?’. If a question requires an answer with more than 2 sentences, they will not respond. Because, obviously, nobody wants to throw a well-written essay into a black hole. Such questions are to be asked in person, if at all.
If you really need this information, then you can politely ask the person to perhaps write a post about it. ‘Would be great if you could write a post about the difference in work culture given your experience in both places. I’m sure many people would immensely benefit from it.’ And then list out the particular aspects you want to be addressed.

7) This should be quite obvious, but just in case – do not use chat abbreviations or slang such as pls, clg, u, y, etc.

All of these apply even if you know them personally.

Brutally honest answers to Space FAQs


Every week I answer diverse questions around space from how to become an astronaut to making a career in the space industry, and so on. So here is a much-needed FAQ section. The answers are based on my personal experiences and from observing the career trajectories of my fellow space enthusiasts along my journey.

This post will be discouraging several times, but I just want to paint a very realistic picture. There are too many starry eyed young aspirants who get caught in the glitter of the space sector and end up disillusioned with enormous financial burdens and fancy but practically useless space degrees and dejectedly settling down with a job in a non-space industry.

On the bright side, there are ways to smartly maneuver this space. Of course it greatly depends on personal strengths, previous experience, risk tolerance among other factors. But anybody who enters this enticing field, should be aware of the risks and be prepared for the worst. This article attempts to give an overview of the risks and their mitigation methods. I hope this article can help you in accurately gauging the space scene and finding your niche. Ad Astra!

FAQs and Answers

FAQ #1 I want to become an astronaut. What should I do?

If you are a national (or some cases permanent resident) of the USA, Japan, Russia, EU, China then please check the websites of the respective space agencies. Also, consider yourself lucky! 🙂

If you are an Indian national (mostly Indians ask me this question), then it depends on what exactly you mean by ‘becoming an astronaut’.

If you just want to experience microgravity, then buy a ticket on-board the Virgin galactic. If you want a more thrilling experience, just buy a ticket from SpaceX like the Japanese billionaire and loop the dark side of the moon. If you can afford these, then you can also afford a shrewd and very much required legal team to help you navigate the regulatory and insurance aspects.

If you wish to be a part of a space mission or the International Space Station crew then there isn’t much hope since India is not a member of the ISS consortium.

ISRO has announced a human space flight program Gaganyaan and the first batch of ‘Vyomonuats’ will most likely be selected from the Indian Air Force. Remember Rakesh Sharma and Ravish Malhotra, they were both Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots.

Of course, you can also join the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) or a science research group in the country (TIFRIIAIUCAA, IISER) and hope for the day when Indian scientists will get to be part of human space flight missions. 🙂

FAQ #2 I completed my bachelor(/master) of engineering(/science) degree and want to work in the space sector in India

You have several options

  1. Government
    • ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) is the most popular government organization doing space activities in the country. Apply through the ICRB (ISRO central recruitment board) or check the careers page of individual ISRO centers regularly.
    • TIFR (TATA Institute of Fundamental Research) has a department of Astronomy and Astrophysics which worked alongside ISRO on the Astrosat mission – India’s own space observatory
    • IIA (Indian Institute of Astrophysics)
    • IUCAA (Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics)
    • IISER (Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research) have campuses across India
  2. Private
    • Big corporations like SES, Airbus have little presence in India since ISRO builds its own satellites
    • L&T, TATA, Godrej have no real products but act as vendors to ISRO
  3. SMEs – Don’t expect IT sector like pay since they all fight for the same limited pie. An engineer’s salary can be as little as Rs 25,000-30,000 per month
  4. Startups
    • Bellatrix Aerospace develops thrusters and rocket engines
    • SatSure is a satellite data analytics company
    • Skyroot Aerospace develops small launchers
    • Exseed Space will soon be launching a cubesat onboard SpaceX’s Falcon-9 which would be India’s first industry built satellite
    • Agnikul also developing launch vehicles

Word of caution Startups can be highly volatile. For instance, Team Indus had made a lot of news internationally but didn’t make the launch and its current status is unknown

FAQ #3 I am a middle/high school student and wish to pursue a career in space in India

In addition to the routes mentioned in the previous section, you can also apply to get into IIST (Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology) after which, depending upon the vacancies and your academic performance, you will be offered a position in ISRO.

FAQ #4 I completed my bachelor degree in an Engineering/Science stream. Which aerospace master course should I choose?

The answer to this question obviously depends to a great extent on the person’s background, interests and capabilities. I tried coming up with a flowchart but it just doesn’t do justice since the thought process is highly personal. So I’ll list down a few general pointers that apply to most people and scenarios.

Golden Rule

Contrary to public opinion and space being the latest buzzword, the space sector doesn’t have as many vast numbers of well-paying jobs that we think it does. The pay often is mostly around average and do keep in mind that you’d be competing with graduates with generic master degrees in electrical, computer, mechanical engineering areas. Therefore, never pursue a master course with a hefty tuition fee that would result in a financial burden which would in turn force you into desperation to take up any job after graduation. Check out these master courses that have low/zero tuition fees.

If you cannot find a suitable low financial burden master, then consider doing a master in generic engineering or science streams. Very often, space companies are looking for employees with pure STEM expertise. For instance, a company making satellites requires a lot of software engineers to code their onboard computers, their ground processing chains, the tracking algorithms, etc. In this case, an embedded systems graduate whose had been coding for say 3 years would obviously be more valuable than a graduate with a space degree who knows a lot about spacecraft orbit dynamics and other fancy space stuff but hadn’t really coded much. Similarly, they often look for analog/digital electronics experts, communication engineers, optical systems experts, etc.

Moreover, with a generic STEM degree, if you cannot find a job in the space sector right after graduation, you can always work in your STEM field and build expertise while waiting for the right opportunity in the space sector.

Of course, if you have access to deep pockets but still want to continue in the space sector after graduation, then this golden rule will not apply to you. But other aspects addressed below might help in choosing a master program.

Some common sense

I’m assuming that you want to pursue a master course in a country which already has a thriving space program or a reasonable amount of space activity. There is no point going to say Eritrea to study space science and technology.

Of course, there are several emerging space actors such as South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil which already have a space agency and government funding for space activities. But unless your life depends on it, I would recommend going to established space ecosystems such as

  • USA
    ITAR regulations prohibit 90% of the aerospace jobs to be given to only US nationals. Only limited science research positions mostly in universities, NASA, other institutions are available to non-citizens.
  • Western Europe
    Ample research and job opportunities with companies such as Airbus, OHB, SES, Thales Alenia, etc and many SMEs
  • Scandinavia
    Limited opportunities in industry but more opportunities in space science research
  • UK
    Visa regulations to Indian students make it harder for Indian students to immediately find jobs
  • Japan
    JAXA’s research labs and upcoming startups like iSpace, Axelspace
  • China
    Couldn’t find much information, but there is definitely the language barrier
  • Australia
    Most recently got their space agency but has a good local ecosystem of space companies
  • Canada
    Lucrative PR entry and a few space companies. Not sure how sustainable though
  • Luxembourg
    Lots of cash being thrown at newspace companies but I would be cautious
  • Austria, Netherlands, Switzerland
    Have only a few but excellent space companies such as Ruag Space. Also, most beautiful countries to live in! 🙂
  • Russia
    The first space giant, but sadly there are not enough space jobs for foreigners. But do consider the excellent Skoltech master with its full scholarship and tie-up with MIT

Plans after the master

If this master course is just a stepping stone to an eventual PhD, then you should consider the following aspects

  • The global reputation of University/Department
    Unlike in India, entry into PhD programs worldwide depends entirely on the professor-in-charge. Studying at a reputed University/department (do note that sometimes the department’s reputation is entirely independent of the university’s ranking) would increase your chances of landing your dream PhD position. Most importantly, figure out ways to secure funding since getting accepted to a PhD position doesn’t guarantee funding in many countries
  • Quality of research in University
    Obviously. This just needs a bit of internet search – look up their past and current projects, peer-reviewed publications, participation in any reputed competitions. You’ll also get to know the latest happenings during this.

If you wish to start working in the space industry right after graduation, then prioritize these

  • Country and its regulations for foreigners
    In the space industry, a master degree makes the most sense when augmented with internships and work experience. Somehow, most Indians only realize after beginning their studies in the US that the ITAR regulations don’t allow them to work in the local space industry, neither for internships nor employment. On contrary Germany doesn’t have such limiting regulations for foreigners and all foreign students after graduation can stay in the country for 18 months to find a job. Also, securing a work-permit is also quite easy and straightforward in Germany given its STEM work-force crunch, unlike the H1B hassle in the US.
  • Presence of a local space ecosystem
    It’s almost common knowledge that grades aren’t the biggest indicators of a person’s employability. The space industry needs good team players with decent work ethics. What better way to demonstrate this to your potential employer than to have worked with the local space industry or space agency? To land this internship or part-time position in the first place, it makes sense to choose a university which has a local space ecosystem in the form of SMEs, space companies, or a space agency.

Will keep adding more answers.

Meanwhile, feel free to reach out on or through any of the channels below to address any further questions. But do go through this check-list before sending a message or email.

ISRO and UN SDGs – A Short Critique

Let’s look at some numbers around ISRO’s popular Tele‐education, Tele‐medicine, Village Resource Centre and Disaster Management System Programmes. Do go through this post for a table that maps the major national projects/initiatives of ISRO to UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The multitude of initiatives and programmes that ISRO has undertaken towards social development are commendable given the meager budget for the Indian Space program of about $1.4 B for the year 2017-2018 which accounts for less than 0.06% of the country’s GDP.

The biggest benefactors of ISRO’s various socio-economic programmes will be the rural and remote populace who cannot otherwise have access to these facilities. This has been achieved through their Village Resource Centres (VRCs) with assistance from NGOs/, Trusts and state & central agencies for taking telemedicine, Tele-education, Panchayat Planning, Vocational Training, Weather Information, Marketing information, Drinking water facilities, Watershed development to the rural populations. The 461 VRC nodes set up in 22 States/Union Territories include 81 Expert Centres. 6500 programmes have been conducted addressing areas such as Agriculture/horticulture development, Fisheries development, Livestock development, Water resources, Telehealthcare, Awareness programmes, Woman’s empowerment, Supplementary education, Computer literacy, Microcredit, Microfinance, Skill development/vocational training for livelihood support and were used by over 500,000 people so far.

As per the press notes released by the Planning Commission of India in 2013, there are about 269.3 million poor people in the country according to the survey it conducted during 2011-2012 of which 216.5 million are from the rural and 52.8 million from urban areas. Assuming that the 500,000 users of the Village Resource Centers of ISRO belonged to the poor sections, only 0.23% of the urban poor had ever accessed the space-based services. Moreover, there are no clear metrics on what percentage of this 500,000 users have continued using the space-based tools and services for upgrading their lives. Similarly, the telemedicine network of ISRO covers about 384 hospitals with 60 specialty hospitals connected to 306 remote/rural/district/medical college hospitals and 18 Mobile Telemedicine units. As per the Open Government Data (OGD) Platform of India metrics of 2013, there are 35,416 government hospitals in the country, of which 26,604 are in rural and 8812 in urban areas. Again, the penetration is less than 1.5%. More importantly, given mobile coverage slowly reaching the rural and remote locations, these tele-education and telemedicine initiatives require better infrastructure in the form of large projection screens and monitors than simple connectivity, given the global trend of moving towards knowledge economies.

Major Limitations

The biggest limitation to the otherwise successful and meticulously planned space application programmes of ISRO is the inability to reach out to the majority of the population that actually needs these services and benefits. Though the drafting of these programmes, some of which had begun six decades ago, has been exceptionally visionary in anticipating the benefits of space technology, the existing implementation methods of operating primarily under the control of the Department of Space, are preventing them from scaling to the entire population.

The shortcomings of the ISRO originated implementation method can be especially sensed in the area of Earth Observation. Though acquisition and basic processing of satellite data is more or less automated, deduction of meaningful information from parsing satellite imagery for understanding climate and weather, monitoring natural resources, planning of developmental activities and assistance towards good governance requires intensive analytics. Performing data analytics and image analytics is a highly customized exercise and is manpower intensive for developing the task-specific algorithms. For instance, the two ISRO applications of identifying heritage sites and urban planning can be accomplished using the same high-resolution satellite imagery. However, the analytics algorithms developed for one project cannot be used for the other.

In spite of participation from several local administrative bodies, NGOs and trusts, the methods of engagement and service dissemination have been largely traditional. For instance, the tele-education program does not take into account the extensive repository of free online education material in the form of videos, lectures, exercises and even complete courses from primary to university level education. Instead, the components of the existing tele-education network connecting 59,700 schools (of the 15,16,865 schools and 38,498 colleges in the country) are receive-only and interactive classroom terminals with content such as lectures, training, lab sessions, databases being generated mostly within the network, though have a thoughtful feature of catering to users with special requirements. Similarly, the telemedicine initiatives also do not provide access to globally available resources but are restricted to their limited network. Therefore the second limitation of these space application base social programmes is the lack of integration with modern day technology and resources. OECD, 2012, OECD Handbook on Measuring the Space Economy, Paris, DOI: 10.1787/9789264169166-en

Possible Solutions

Solving the first limitation of scale and increasing the penetration of space technology tools can be achieved through recruiting more dedicated personnel to achieve wider penetration of the space technology services. However, this results in a large financial burden on the exchequer. An optimal solution is when the same mass penetration can be achieved through a commercial player ecosystem that reaps benefits while taking these space technology tools to the remotest populations. Inviting participation from startups in the fields of education, healthcare, social entrepreneurship ventures would give the required innovation momentum to the utilization of space technology tools in sustainable development and also solve the second problem of outdated content and implementation methodologies. However, in order for these efforts to make a convincing business case for these space applications disseminating companies, the space technologies, and services themselves should be available at an affordable cost. This, in turn, can be achieved by a thriving SME eco-system on both the upstream as well as downstream space sectors that would integrate space-based products/services into traditional industries such as energy, agriculture, retail, transport, internet/connectivity, etc. This dynamic integration precisely forms one of the strong pillars of NewSpace companies.

Moreover, NewSpace companies are planning to pick up the buck where traditional space companies have flattened in technology and growth. For example, there is a whole new ecosystem of Earth Observation (EO) downstream applications ventures that want to go beyond traditional Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) but using satellite data with ground-based sensors in creating data stacks that can add specific industry and decision intelligence to an array of industries.

A thriving newspace ecosystem would by itself cater to supplying the necessary space technology tools and services for sustainable development in the areas of climate change, disaster management, urban planning, resources monitoring, natural resource conservation while indirectly aiding large-scale dissemination of space technology-based tools and services in the areas of education, healthcare, poverty eradication, economic growth, sustainable practices.

Garbage in Human Spaceflight Missions

The last few months have been busy with the big move to Germany. Having almost grasped the garbage sorting algorithms of Deutschland (Umweltbundesamt – Federal Environment Agency), I got curious about the garbage scene in space. Since I couldn’t find a one-stop-online info website for space garbage, this article gives a short summary of historical and current garbage scenes in Human Space Flight missions.

Brief History

During the initial days of the human spaceflight, space agencies did not foresee the large importance of garbage disposal in space. Since most of the initial flights were for either 15 minutes (in case of Allen Shepard) and a few orbits by Yuri Gagarin, the focus was primarily on the safety systems and the data collection. The first instance of the challenge of tackling the problem of human waste came up during the Redstone mission (launch on May 5, 1961) when Alan Shepard infamously wet himself. Since the mission supposed to last only 15 minutes, mission managers thought that he would be able to off.

This problem that a space agency like NASA did not foresee was then corrected in the later missions of Freedom 7 with a primitive urine collection methods on board by using simple bags to store urine. Urine from these bags was then easy to be ejected from the side of spacecraft. Containment of fecal matter was the next big challenge which was posed during the longer duration Gemini missions in spite of the low fiber diet designed for astronauts.

The Gemini missions had a fecal kit that basically comprised a plastic bag with adhesives, wet wipes, and chemical bacteria to neutralize odors. Also, there was an extension the plastic bag, to enable the astronauts to separate the fecal matter from their body, given the absence of gravity in space.

Typically, an astronaut would strip naked, attach the fecal bag to his body to complete the action, with the whole exercise taking usually more than an hour. In spite of this elaborate routine, Apollo 10 astronauts had fecal particles floating around during their return trip from the Moon. No literature could be found for waste disposal for female astronauts since there were very few initial recruits. It could simply be that they used a diaper for urine during the initial missions.

Soyuz (by the Russians) was the first spacecraft that had the first toilet instead of the primitive bags. This may be a measure taken to accommodate for the waste generated by the larger three-person occupied spacecraft. Urine and fecal matter collection system was basically a funnel that was based on air flow so that urine and fecal matter would be suctioned out.

Given their duration of not more than few days, all these missions only undertook measures to handle human waste. Other waste such as defunct electronics, paper, etc. did not constitute as much and was simply brought back to the earth.

Then came the manned space stations beginning with the Russian Salyut in 1971 which were occupied for longer durations with more than 3 people at the same time. This Salyut and the next space station which was the American Skylab both had simple toilets similar to the ones on the Russian Soyuz. The waste collected from these toilets were simply packed away and brought back to Earth. Skylab introduced the concept of exposing the bio-waste as well as its garbage to the harsh outer space via the airlock (Skylab Trash Airlock) so as to kill the microorganisms and prevent any decomposition reactions and also to evaporate the water content.



Human Waste Disposal Unit from the Mir Space Station


The next advancement in space toilets came with the American Space Shuttle in 1981 with its Waste Collection System that is slightly more complex and sophisticated than the simple toilets used so far. It is an automated system comprising the human waste collection, processing, airlock exposure, ejection (urine only) from craft and storage. It also accommodated female astronauts. It’s dual urine and fecal collection mode was perhaps the first of its kind to be present in a space toilet wherein an astronaut can urinate and expel feces in the same toilet cycle without having to change settings on the toilet. However, this sophisticated system required more elaborate maintenance and needed to be cleaned and flushed with water every day.

All the space toilets so far though slightly different in construction and operation, disposed of the waste in a similar manner. The liquid urine was jettisoned out of the rocket/station and the fecal matter was brought back to the Earth after chemical treatment. The Russian MIR was the first to come up with an alternate of disposing of the solid waste – which is by burning it up in the atmosphere. This act of throwing garbage out in space was not technically the first, given the fact that Apollo 11 had left a jettison bag (trash bag) on the moon’s surface and the Apollo 16 crew throwing a jettison bag out during an EVA but these were one-time events and not really a part of their overall waste disposal strategy.

The most up to date space toilet today is present on the ISS (International Space Station) that designed its toilet and its waste management strategy by studying the human waste management methods employed not only on MIR, Skylab but also from the US Navy’s Submarines. All along the evolution of the space toilet from the initial space age days to the current ISS, there have been several instances of critical problems arising directly because of human waste. For instance, near the end of Gordon Cooper’s 34-hour Mercury mission in 1963, a urine bag leakage resulted in multiple system failures and Cooper had to manually control the re-entry. At the time of MIR space station’s retirement in 2001, all the urine that had been ejected reduced the efficiency of the solar panels by 40%.

While it’s obvious that the primitive fecal bags were a rather time-consuming and messy affair, the later space toilets though more sophisticated required special positional training for the astronauts to be able to effectively use them. Though there weren’t any such critical issues with the ISS’s toilet, it was very expensive and had cost NASA $19M to replace their broken toilet on their ISS module.

The toilet scene on all the human spaceflight missions so far (rockets and space stations) is compiled in Table 1 and Table 2. The space stations, owing to their longer occupancy times and nature of activities onboard, also generated a comparatively greater amount of non-human garbage. Salyut and Skylab brought their garbage back to earth along with the human solid waste while MIR and ISS burned up their garbage together the human solid waste.

The Chinese Shenzhou rocket also includes a simple toilet but there isn’t much literature to be found on it. The Chinese space stations Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 have their toilets on the docked Shenzhou rocket and they dispose of their human solid waste and garbage via burnup in the Earth’s atmosphere.

A summary of the toilet scenes so far in crafts and space stations is given in the following tables. Both tables compiled from various sources indexed in the text above.


Country Capacity Period Active Toilet Scene


Russia 1 person 1961 – 1963 Bag


USA 1 person 1961 – 1963 Bag
Voskhod Russia 2-3 person 1964 – 1965


Gemini USA 2 persons 1965 – 1966



Russian 3 persons 1967 – present Simple Toilet


USA 3 persons 1968 – 1975


Space Shuttle 1981 – 2011

Waste Collection System


Chinese 3 persons 2003 – present Simple Toilet
X-15* US 1 person 1963

No toilet

SpaceShipOne* 1 person 2004

No toilet

* Sub-orbital


Space Station

Country Capacity Period Active Toilet Scene Garbage Scene

Salyut series

Russia 2-4 person 1971 – 1991 Simple Toilet Earth bound
Skylab US 3 persons 1973 – 1974 Simple Toilet

Earth bound (after airlock exposure)


Russia 3/(>) persons 1986 – 2001 Toilet System Burnup


US 6 persons 2000 – present Waste Collection System

EAS burnup

Tiangong-1 Chinese 2 persons 2011 – 2012 Toilet on Shenzhou


Tiangong-2 Chinese 2 persons 2016 – present Toilet on Shenzhou

Tiangong-1 burnup


Current Garbage Scene

The most sophisticated garbage management plan is now being implemented on the International Space Station. Given the increased astronaut presence and also the numerous activities and experiments being performed on the ISS, human waste is no longer the biggest aspect of garbage. As per the ISS’s “Non-Recoverable Cargo Management Plan”, garbage is classified as Trash and Waste. Trash refers to all that garbage that doesn’t significantly contribute to the decay of the habitable environment and typically comprises expired consumables, payload generated items or used/defective hardware. Waste comprises of chemicals, radioactive materials, biologically active products, etc. Every item discarded is labeled according to the extensive classification scheme and disposed of accordingly. ISS also seems to be the only space station that has a recycling system in place. It is not clear if Tiangong 1 or 2 has a recycling system onboard due to limited literature available on them.

In summary, the current garbage scene on the ISS is that about 80% of the water collected from the toilets, showers, and water vapor from the air is recycled. All the other garbage is exposed to the outer space in the airlock to kill microbial growth. Of this airlock exposed garbage, the toxic part it brought back to earth while the rest is burned up in the atmosphere. Figure 4: ATV-4 (Albert Einstein) Re-entry shows 1.6 tons of astronaut waste and other garbage being burned up during re-entry of the fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle named Albert Einstein in 2013.


ATV-4 reentry in 2013

Mapping ISRO’s Projects to UN Sustainable Development Goals

For a background on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role of space technology in their achievement, refer this article.

The Indian Space Program had always focused on missions that would directly impact the common man. Currently, ISRO’s (Indian Space Research Organisation) Satellite Communication supports initiatives such as Tele‐education, Tele‐medicine, Village Resource Centre and Disaster Management System Programmes. The Indian Remote Sensing program provides key information to the government for ensuring food security, environment sustenance, natural resource management, disaster management among others. Additionally, it developed indigenous systems for ground-based monitoring measurement of weather parameters, such as Automatic Weather Station, Agro Metrological (AGROMET), Flux Tower, Doppler Weather Rada, GPS Sonde and Boundary Layer LIDAR.

The following table maps the major national projects/initiatives of ISRO to UN SDGs.

UN SDG ISRO Programme Space Technology Used Benefits
#1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere Village Resource Centre (VRC) Satellite communication, imagery, positioning, meterological data 461 VRCs set up in 22 States/Union Territories and over 6500 programmes conducted addressing areas of Agriculture/horticulture development; Fisheries development; Live stock development; Water resources; Tele health care; Awareness programmes; Woman’s empowerment; Supplementary education; Computer literacy; Micro credit; Micro finance; Skill development / vocational training for livelihood support etc.
#2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture  

Agro Metrological (AGROMET)


ground based sensors with satellite meteorological data


Towers to measure soil temperature, soil moisture, soil heat and net radiation, wind speed, wind direction, pressure and humidity

Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) High resolution satellite imagery Ground reality is captured. Time stamping of Irrigation Infrastructure. Identification of critical gaps. Prioritisation of works. Compliance monitoring. Effective project implementation. Irrigation Potential Creation assessment
Coordinated programme on Horticulture Assessment & Management using geoinformatics (CHAMAN) medium resolution widefield multi-spectral and high resolution satellite imagery Horticultural policy decision on crop monitoring, domestic needs, pricing, processing, import/export, planning cold storage & agro-processing units. Planning for expansion and development. Support for crop insurance schemes. Crop intensification and diversification
#3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages Tele-Medicine satellite communication, VSAT terminals  

Improved connectivity in remote and rural areas for healthcare services with access to Super-Specialist hospitals. Significant cost savings. Timely advice to save lives·Continuing Medical Education (CME) for Doctors, Medical Students and training to rural healthcare providers. Support to disaster relief

#4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all Tele-Education satellite communication, VSAT terminals Supplementing curriculum-based teaching. Effective teachers’ training. Access to quality resource persons and education. Taking education to every nook and corner of the country. About 15 million students get benefitted every year
#5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls Village Resource Centre (VRC) Satellite communication, imagery, positioning, meterological data 461 VRCs set up in 22 States/Union Territories and over 6500 programmes conducted addressing areas of Agriculture/horticulture development; Fisheries development; Live stock development; Water resources; Tele health care; Awareness programmes; Woman’s empowerment; Supplementary education; Computer literacy; Micro credit; Micro finance; Skill development / vocational training for livelihood support etc.
#6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all Integrated Watershed Management Project (IWMP High spatial and temporal resolution satellite imagery   Uniform evaluation of watershed development programme across the country using ortho-rectified highresolution satellite image database. Open source mapper tools for creation of future action plans using legacy/ multi-thematic layers. Prioritisation of target areas at national level and modeling of processes
Agro Metrological (AGROMET) ground based sensors with satellite meteorological data Towers to measure soil temperature, soil moisture, soil heat and net radiation, wind speed, wind direction, pressure and humidity
#7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all Smart Cities  high resolution and medium resolution multispectral satellite imagery  Existing Land use and infrastructure, Planning of City, Geospatial Governance for city good governance and civic services, Monitoring and enforcement, Real time city data analytics  
#8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all PFZ (Potential Fishing Zones) – Finding Fishes From Space coarse resolution multi-spectral satellite imagery, satellite positioning   

Direct benefit to society. Reduced search time, fuel cost and efforts. Increase in profi. Improved socio-economic status of fishermen community. 67% success rate in PFZ. Increase in Benefit-cost ratio (Non-PFZ to PFZ) – 1.27 to 2.12 for trawling & 1.3 to 2.14 for gillnetting 

#9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation  

Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) and GAGAN (GPS Aided and GEO Augmented Navigation)

satellite communication, satellite positioning  Indigenous positioning service over the Indian Sub-continent 
 #10: Reduce inequality within and among countries GSAT-9 South Asia Satellite (Refer page 6) satellite communication   support communication, broadcasting and Internet services, disaster management, tele-medicine, tele-education, weather forecasting for Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, The Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka 
 #11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable Space Based Information Support for Decentralized Planning High resolution multispectral satellite imagery Single Window interface for Decentralised Planning process at all three levels. Accessibility of portal to common citizen for effective participation in planning process. Accessibility of Climate data at Panchayat level. Automatic Report Generation covering various socio-economic, demographic, natural, climate and infrastructure information. Effective for decision making at Panchayat level under e-Governance 
Satcom based Disaster Management Support  satellite communication, VSAT terminals  Low-cost terminal to support search & rescue operations for fishermen; Providing meteorological sensor data collection for weather prediction; In-situ data collection and reporting for calibration and validation of sensors
Distress Alert & Early Warning satellite communication, VSAT terminals, satellite positioning  
Conservation of heritage sites high resolution satellite imagery Inventory of world heritage sites and nationally important monuments in the country and generation of Geo-spatial database using high resolution satellite data; Predictive Locational Modeling for siting prospective archaeological locations 
Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)
high resolution and medium resolution multispectral satellite imagery  GIS Based Master Plan, Water Supply Systems, Sewerage, Septage, Storm Water Drainage, Urban Transport, Green Space and Parks, Reforms management & support, Capacity Building  
Smart Cities 
high resolution and medium resolution multispectral satellite imagery Existing Land use and infrastructure, Planning of City, Geospatial Governance for city good governance and civic services, Monitoring and enforcement, Real time city data analytics
#12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP)
High resolution satellite imagery Ground reality is captured. Time stamping of Irrigation Infrastructure. Identification of critical gaps. Prioritisation of works. Compliance monitoring. Effective project implementation. Irrigation Potential Creation assessment
#13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts Climate change Research In Terrestrial environment (PRACRITI) coarse and medium resolution multispectral satellite imagery Modeling Eco-hydrology of India and Impact of Climate Change; Alpine ecosystem dynamics and impact of climate change in Indian Himalaya; Bio-physical Characterization and Site Suitability Analysis for Indian Mangroves; Impact of Global Changes on Marine Ecosystems with special emphasis on Coral Reefs; Investigations of Indian monsoon teleconnection with the polar environment processes
Automatic Weather Station (AWS) satellite meteorological sensors to providing hourly information on critical weather parameters such as pressure, temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind and radiation from remote and inaccessible areas
Space Based Information Support for Decentralized Planning High resolution multispectral satellite imagery Single Window interface for Decentralised Planning process at all three levels. Accessibility of portal to common citizen for effective participation in planning process. Accessibility of Climate data at Panchayat level. Automatic Report Generation covering various socio-economic, demographic, natural, climate and infrastructure information. Effective for decision making at Panchayat level under e-Governance
#14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources PFZ (Potential Fishing Zones) – Finding Fishes From Space coarse resolution multi-spectral satellite imagery, satellite positioning   Direct benefit to society. Reduced search time, fuel cost and efforts. Increase in profi. Improved socio-economic status of fishermen community. 67% success rate in PFZ. Increase in Benefit-cost ratio (Non-PFZ to PFZ) – 1.27 to 2.12 for trawling & 1.3 to 2.14 for gillnetting
#15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss Integrated Watershed Management Project (IWMP High spatial and temporal resolution satellite imagery Uniform evaluation of watershed development programme across the country using ortho-rectified highresolution satellite image database. Open source mapper tools for creation of future action plans using legacy/ multi-thematic layers. Prioritisation of target areas at national level and modeling of processes
#16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies Space Based Information Support for Decentralized Planning High resolution multispectral satellite imagery Single Window interface for Decentralised Planning process at all three levels. Accessibility of portal to common citizen for effective participation in planning process. Accessibility of Climate data at Panchayat level. Automatic Report Generation covering various socio-economic, demographic, natural, climate and infrastructure information. Effective for decision making at Panchayat level under e-Governance
#17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development GSAT-9 South Asia Satellite (Refer page 6) satellite communication support communication, broadcasting and Internet services, disaster management, tele-medicine, tele-education, weather forecasting for Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, The Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka

It is evident that ISRO’s national programmes are all designed to aid the government in achieving the development goals by 2030. However, the complete potential of ISRO’s technological prowess and dedication are yet to be unleashed. There is much that can be done in the design as well as implementation of these impressive national missions. My next articles will attempt a critical analysis on the ISRO approach to UN SDGs and suggest possible and feasible solutions suitable for the current Indian space scene.

Rutherford, Electron and RocketLab –  A Brief


Electron, the small satellite launch vehicle, might most probably have made history this May with its first successful launch with a mostly 3D printed rocket engine. However, the maiden launch simply named “It’s a test” – they impressively named their electric turbo-pumped liquid engine Rutherford – had to be aborted after four minutes into the launch due to loss of communication with the ground command.

They weren’t sure initially whether it reached the Karman Line (the widely accepted altitude of 100 Km at which space begins though not acknowledged in any of the international space treaties), but confirm it crossed the 224 Km height upon analysing the flight data recently. This article gives further details on how a mis-configuration of the third-party ground equipment software resulted in a signal loss that lead to the abortion of the flight.

Technical Brief

One amongst dozens of NewSpace launchers, most of them by US based companies and many designed for small satellites, Electron nevertheless stands out on several fronts such as

(Check out their Payload User Guide for a much detailed technical overview)

Electron – Overall Specs

  • Size It’s the smallest launcher (H = 17 m, D = 1.2 m) – historically and in comparison with LVs in development so far.
  • Design
    • Like most NewSpace launchers, Electron uses one single engine design for both its stages (9 Rutherford engines for Stage-1 and 1 for Stage-2). The salient point is each Rutherford (pardon the rhetoric, I’m fascinated by its very apt name) can be 3D printed in 24 hours!
    • The Rutherford engine uses an electric engine comprising a DC brushless motor and a LiPo battery that pumps LOx and RP into the combustion chamber. RocketLabs claims these turbo pumps to be 95% efficient while the standard gas-generator cycle engines are only 50% efficient.

In-house design and manufacture of carbon composite propellant tanks, the avionics, valves, pressurization systems.

It’s a pity that the only outsourced ground equipment was what spoiled the “It’s a test” while all the other indigenously made systems performed flawlessly. Even more surprising when one finds out that the state-owned Alaska Aerospace Corporation seems to be the independent contractor who supplied Range Safety and Telemetry System (RSTS) and personnel for the launch. Digging deeper, this RSTS is designed by Honeywell Inc,. the globally renowned supplier of aerospace and defense electronic equipment!

Payload Integration is completely decoupled from the main assembly and they provide customers the option to integrate their payloads with a plug-in payload module independently at their own facility and personnel. This plug-in payload module will then be brought to the RocketLab’s integration facility to be plugged into the Electron.

Suave! This way the customer doesn’t incur the costs of sending their personnel over to the launcher integration site. Team Electron will have to do the travelling, but since it’s going to be the same set of people and an established procedure, the travel will cost them much less, financially and temporally.

First launch from a fully commercial launch site – Mahia Peninsula, NZ. This location has the advantage of being able to support the launch of SSO flights with desired inclinations from 39 deg to 98 deg. Also given its low interaction with standard aviation routes, can support 100 flights per year or one flight per 72 hours!

This launch frequency might seem superfluous at first but one must consider the 9000 satellites, most of them around the 100 Kg range, that are expected to be launched by 2025!

Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, Mahia, NZ

The launch facilities Cape Canaveral, Florida and Pacific Spaceport Complex, Alaska located in the USA will be used for US customer launches.

Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA

Pacific Spaceport Complex, Alaska, USA

Very Brief History

RocketLab was established in 2006, almost during the same time as that of SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. It is now headquartered in LA (USA) and has a wholly-owned subsidiary (independent legal entity) in New Zealand. Their first big operation was the launch of a sounding rocket Atea-1 in 2009 from NZ, which was speculated to have reached an altitude of 150 Km but wasn’t actually measured.

Launch of Atea-1

In 2010 they won the U.S. federal government Operationally Responsive Space Office (ORS) contract to develop an on-demand dedicated small satellite launcher and in 2015 the $6.9 M NASA contract. The development of Electron began in 2012. The indigenous systems of Electron must have taken root during the development of Atea-1 itself since the latter also housed in-house developed avionics package, power supply and payload recovery systems.


The most captivating aspect about their website, much more than their aesthetic design and color scheme, is the apparent ease felt by a customer in booking a launch. It obviously doesn’t lead to an online payment gateway upon selecting the launch slot and mass (er… launching state liability for starters?) but impresses upon any visitor perusing the site that Space is indeed open for Business.

NASA, Spire, Planet and even the Google Lunar X-Prize contender Moon Express are listed as the customers. Only last week, the latter ambitious venture might have been in doldrums after the failed first launch of Electron. However, after the latest deadline extension for the GLXP to March 2018 and given the scheduled second launch attempt of Electron by the end of this year and especially after RocketLab confirmed it was only a software configuration glitch that caused the earlier failure, Moon Express stands a fairer chance.

Here is a nice article speculating on the GLXP’s active contenders. But it’s not updated after the recent deadline extension.

Electron – Payload to SSO Altitude

Charging about $4.9 M per launch (nominal 150 Kg to 500 Km SSO), one can be tempted to calculate the per Kg cost which will be $32K /kg. This seems a lot compared to the per/Kg costs similarly computed from SpaceX’s pricing scheme – $2700 /Kg (Falcon 9) and $1400 /Kg (Falcon Heavy). However, it should be strongly noted that cost of access to space cannot be computed by a simple division of the payload mass by the launch cost. While the Electron is a small satellite launcher, the Falcons are in the 20T and 60T range to LEO and even beyond, till the Mars orbit, albeit with lesser payload capability. The relationship between the launch cost and payload mass is certainly not linear.

Moreover, opportunity costs also play a big role for customers while deciding upon a launcher for their satellites. For instance, let’s consider a customer looking to test their payload on a 3U cubesat. Let us further consider 3 launch options.

Option 1 costs $295K with Spaceflight, a global launch aggregator

Option 2 costs $240K with RocketLab

Option 3 costs $135K with ISRO’s PSLV

While Options 1 & 3 usually offer ride-shares with larger satellites with launches every quarter, Option 2 can potentially provide a launch opportunity every three days. Moreover, the orbits and orbit precision will be more suited for the primary bigger satellite while the requirements of cubesats and small satellites will be slightly different. Therefore, a commercial customer would most likely opt for Option 2 while a customer from the academia with severe budget constraints will opt for the cheapest. Even though Option 3 is the most reliable, Option 2 will soon catch-up given its insane launch frequency.

Legal Overview

Even though the US has a robust domestic space law infrastructure the space legal environment of NZ has to be considered given its role as the launching state for all launches from the Mahia Peninsula, NZ. While NZ signed and ratified the Outer Space Treaty (1967), the Rescue Agreement (1968), the Liability Convention (1972), it has not signed (and of course not ratified) the Registration Convention (1976).

However, the New Zealand Space Agency (NZSA) was formed in 2016 under the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Its purpose is to regulate, support and enable space activities of NZ while also formulating the policy and strategy around space activities. An Outer Space and High Altitude Activities Bill was also proposed in 2016 to take care of authorizations, licensing and liability of all space activities. The Civil Aviation Authority is currently the authority for granting licenses and authorizations of space launches.


UN Sustainable Development Goals – Role of Space Technology

Introduction – United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

In September 2015, the 193 member states of the United Nations have adopted a set of 17 goals each comprising specific targets to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. They are referred to as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the member states are expected to formulate their national policies towards achieving these goals over the next 15 years. Also, a global indicator framework for the SDGs was announced in March 2017 1 . The UN SDGs were based on the earlier set of goals known as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the UN in 2000 and expired in 2015.

While the MDGs also addressed poverty &amp; hunger, universal education, combating diseases, child mortality, maternal health, gender equality, environmental sustainability, global partnerships, the SDGs appear to be superior to their predecessors on several fronts. Given the involvement of middle and low income countries in the international negotiations during their formulation, the SDGs are more universal applying to all countries. Through initiatives such as UN Global Compact and Impact2030, the private sector can greatly contribute towards global development. The SDGs can be a powerful tool for the United Nations in spreading awareness on poverty, inequality, sustainability, discrimination and think as global citizens. Moreover, the indicator framework has the potential to create opportunities to engage and participate in governance at local levels.

The 17 global development goals and their 169 targets are more or less interdependent and can only be pursued together with improvement in one area depending largely on progress in several other areas. For instance, poverty cannot be eradicated without significant progress in the fields of education, health care and reduction of inequalities. Climate change can only be combated via conservation and sustainable use of oceans, land, clean energy and responsible consumption and production techniques.

The wide agenda of the SDGs requires participation from all global actors who need to formulate appropriate policies at their national levels while also engaging their population at local and regional levels. Formulation of policies, implementation of necessary actions and assessment of progress in this global endeavour requires historical and accurate real-time data as well as infrastructure which space technology tools such as satellite imagery, satellite communication, satellite navigation and positioning, satellite based weather data can uniquely provide.

Role of Space Technology

The majority of the developing and underdeveloped countries, which have the greatest need for sustainable development, have large populations. This places a great complexity in both formulation and implementation of national policies towards sustainable development. The making of policies would require the most accurate information on the existing state of affairs, such as levels of poverty, land use, local climate, etc. Effective implementation would require real-time statistics on the measures taken. However, most important towards realisation of the UN SDGs is empowering the unaware and underprivileged population with access to all such information, at a personal as well as the community level. They should have access to the benefits being provided to them, the policies being chalked out and the metrics on the aid being offered.

Education and awareness are the most important tools of empowerment, in addition to providing access to information. Education, awareness, access – all require being connected to the rest of the world and amongst themselves. This global connectivity in turns requires vast infrastructure which space technology can offer most effectively – in terms of both cost and ease of establishment.

Earth observation satellite constellations have the potential to provide real-time images of the globe. Sub-meter and high spatial resolution imagery can help in urban planning, monitoring of urban land abuse, detection and tracking. Medium resolution imagery can aid in agricultural land mapping, land use, monitoring of lakes & water bodies. Coarse resolution images help in climate monitoring, disaster management and mitigation.

The satellite communications sectors with the VSAT terminals can take broadband access and thereby connectivity to the remotest locations. High Throughput Satellites now have upwards of 200 Gbps throughput. This can also greatly aid in providing education to even the remote locations and help in medical supervision by expert doctors wherever there is a shortage of specialists.

The applications of remote sensing and satcom are greatly aided by the satellite positioning and navigation services.

NewSpace Ventures – On Trends, Legalities, Ecosystem

I’ve recently stumbled upon a nook of cyberspace aptly named NewSpace Ventures, where space geeks can share and discuss all things NewSpace. Access to its archive of NewSpace companies is provided upon subscription while entry into its private slack channel is invite-only.

On a personal note, the first email from NSV after signup was quite a revelation for me. The archive listed more than a hundred companies spread over 20 countries and offering a myriad of products and services in, for and through Space. I already did have a notion that the global space industry has been rapidly growing, but scrolling through the archive was what made me fathom the scale and potential.

Few of the services offered were beyond my imagination! For instance, the US based Elysium Space offers to turn a loved one’s remains into a shooting star at an interestingly affordable price of $2490. The average North American traditional funeral costs between $7,000 and $10,000

Begin of a short whimsical detour…
Let’s now try to do some back-of-the-envelope calculations around this obviously affordable price. As per the pricelist provided by its launch and mission management services provider Spaceflight (another US based NS company), the launch cost for a 3U cubesat of mass 5 Kg is about $295k. Let’s assume that Elysium would place the remains of several clients in a single satellite which, from the images on its website, appears to be a 3U cubesat. The memorial service also includes the collection of sample, printing of initials & a message, invitation to launch, launch event video, a certificate and also a tracking app whose cost can be considered negligible and ignored for simplicity. Placing about 120 remains on a single satellite would result in a break-even.

A 3U cubesat would weigh less than 4 Kg and at break-even, the 120 ash capsules should together weigh 1 Kg and thereby each about 8g. Of course, the capsules must be much lighter for Eysium to make profits, because we haven’t accounted for the orbit maintenance and re-entry maneuvres. Celestis is another US based company offering a similar memorial service.
End of the whimsical detour.

This daily growing archive lists 329 NewSpace companies as of today. Of them, 155 are from the United States with Germany, Netherlands, Canada, Spain and India contributing more than 10 companies each. Turkey, Malaysia, South Africa, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Austria also each house a couple of private space companies.

After its Türksat 1B in 1994, Turkey now owns several communication and earth observation reconnaissance satellites which were all launched using Chinese, Russian and European launchers, but formation of the Turkish Space Agency is still amidst political turmoil. Here is a nice article on the current space scene in Turkey. The National Space Agency of Malaysia (ANGKASA) was formed in 2002 before which its GEO communication satellites MEASAT-1 & MEASAT-2 designed and built by Boeing were already launched in 1996. Its first microsatellite Tiung SAT developed through technology transfer support from SSTL, UK was already launched in 2000 on the Ukrainean Dnepr. Sunsat-1 was South Africa’s first (university) satellite launched using US rocket in 1999. Read here about a nano-satellite made by SA private industry to be launched from the ISS next year, as part of a European Commission research project.

Evidently, many countries that don’t possess and cannot afford to develop launch capability are slowly but steadily and certainly gaining capability of satellite manufacturing. An important observation is that, most of these countries such as Turkey, Malaysia, South Africa are involving their respective domestic industries to a significant extent in their satellite programs. Given the involvement of globally established satellite makers such as Boeing, SSTL in the form of collaborations and tech transfers, the private industry of these countries is straight away leapfrogging into the latest technology in building satellite components and even complete satellites. Thereby, they can soon gain global competence and can aim to develop and market satellite components and sub-systems. Moreover, if their respective space agencies offer to provide or give subsidized access to satellite AIT facilities which form the major cost in satellite making, these companies will further benefit in terms of cost competitiveness. On the other hand, the private companies of countries such as India that have only been component suppliers for the last five decades will have a disadvantage unless they make their own efforts towards gaining international competence. Given the recent satellite AIT contract to Indian industry consortium and the privatization of PSLV, the Indian industry will now be able to participate at the systems level, but it is already several decades late already. Companies such as Data Patterns, Cyient, Aniara, Centum Electronics, Ananth Technologies and the giants L&T (An overview of L&T – ISRO partnership here), Godrej & Boyce, Tata Motors, Walchandnagar in the spacecraft and launch vehicle domains have been around for decades and some since the inception of the Indian space program. Their major customer in space has always been ISRO and there is no end to end manufacturer of satellites or launch vehicles amongst them. Of course, satellite manufacturing only accounts for  less than 5% of the total space revenues as given in the following chart.

Source: State of the Satellite Industry Report (September 2016)

Obviously, given the small margins, satellite manufacturing can only be lucrative with large volumes. Similarly the revenues from the launch industry are less than 2% of the total space revenues. Therefore, it can be argued that the Indian industries might not have found much value in these areas. However, there is not much business activity from these companies even in the high revenue areas of satellite services and non-satellite industry (human spaceflight, non-orbital spacecraft, government spending). I have summarised the latest issues surrounding the Indian Satcom Scene in this article.

In the least revenue fetching segment of launch vehicles, the NSV lists about 30 companies and another 16 under propulsion which includes satellite propulsion as well. Most of these companies are again from the United States.

About 99% of these companies are currently alive, in that their websites are functional. However, there is no idea how one can attempt to envisage their future. Of course, patents and technology are the main ingredients for their success, but I believe the location of the company plays an equally important role. For a casual space enthusiast checking out the NSV archive, knowing the location would suffice. A company in the US obviously has great chances of procuring funding given its ample VC and HNI money compared to a company in say Ukraine. However, an industry analyst or a serious researcher or a potential investor might prefer to know more details. Towards providing this additional insights, I have taken up the task of including the national legislation relevant to the company’s area of operations in the NSV archive. In the absence of a national law, the applicable international law is mentioned.

A reader might now wonder about

  1. The companies which offer diverse products/services
    Most are early stage startups and operate in a single domain. For instance, Berlin Space Technologies is a Berlin based company offering reliable and cost efficient solutions for high resolution earth observation. They provide small satellite systems, payloads and ground equipment whose sale is regulated by the Foreign Trade and Payments Act of Germany. The apparently diverse range of operations is usually regulated by a single regulation. Similarly Thrustme of France specialises in nano-satellite ion-propulsion and precision attitude control which is regulated under the French Arms Export Control System. If a company in some future time does span across multiple domains, then the company can be listed multiple times.
  2. The companies which might pivot
    Companies don’t pivot overnight and usually at a frequency low enough to allow updation of the archive in time
  3. Updates/Changes in legislation
    Again, legislations don’t get made or updated overnight and usually at a frequency low enough to allow updation of the archive in time

Conducive regulatory environment certainly has a say in the success of a company and in contributing towards its global competence. Especially in the high-tech sector of space with high entry barriers in terms of technology, capital and most times UN/EU/State sanctions given its dual-use nature, these companies often need more than legal clarity alone. Government hand-holding through incubation centers, dedicated (space) SME funds, technology transfers, help in achieving global competitiveness by sustaining them through innovation cycles and offering buyback incentives are few such mechanisms, the information on which I will soon add to the NSV archive.

Making the case for India’s National Space Policy – Excerpts from the Kalpana Chawla Annual Space Policy Dialogue 2017

This is the second article wherein I present my takeaways from the panel discussions on Making the case for India’s National Space Policy during the 3rd Kalpana Chawla Annual Space Policy Dialogue.

Click here for the first article that covers the panel discussions on Transponder Capacity for Broadcasting and Broadband over India.

Continuing the format of the first article, I will similarly provide a brief overview on the current state of Indian National Space Policy before proceeding to describe the panel discussion.


The setting up of the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) in 1962 marked the beginning of the Indian Space Program. ISRO was formed in 1969 followed by the Space Commission and the Department of Space, in 1972. The period between the 1960s and the late 1970s did not see stringent export controls on high technology. By the time the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) was established by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States in 1987, ISRO had already initiated its process of capacity building in space activities by securing the baseline technologies. After India’s nuclear tests of 1974 and 1998, ISRO and several other R&D and production entities pursuing space and missile technology came under heavy sanctions by the US, locking them out of western technology. For instance, the agreement between ISRO and Russia’s Glavkosmos for the supply of engines and cryogenic technologies was limited to the sale of only seven KhimMach KVD-1 engines, under U.S. pressure and sanctions imposed in 1992.

The Indian space program has always been focused on societal applications of space technology, emphasizing on cost-effective pursuit of its space ambitions. Since its inception, the Indian Space Program had comprised all the three major elements of conducting space activities – satellites for remote sensing and communication, space transportation services and application programs. This article gives a brief history of these three elements of ISRO that sheds light on the important role played by international entities especially from the Soviet Union, the USA, France and Germany in kickstarting the Indian Space Program.

Background – Law and Policy

During its formative years, the Indian Space program had a strategic advantage with its space programmes being completely under the government’s control without any intervention of specific national space legislations. However, having ratified the first four UN Treaties (the Outer Space Treaty (1967), the Rescue Agreement (1968), the Liability Convention (1972), the Registration Convention (1976)) and being a signatory to the fifth (The Moon Treaty (1984)), implementing India’s international treaty obligations with national law will represent a physical link between its universally declared stand on outer space and its national application. But in international law, harmonization of international conventions with national law is immaterial for a state, since it is required to fulfil its international obligations in good faith.

Article 51 of the Constitution of India read with Article 53 enables the Government to fulfil India’s international treaty obligations with the objective to promote international peace, through the exercise of executive power without imposing the mandatory pre-condition of enacting national laws. However, one exception is when money is to be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund of India for making payment to discharge liability to a foreign entity. (Refer Pg 158 of this book)

Moreover, the envisaged acceleration and expansion of civilian space applications and the domestic industry as a whole by the current Indian Government will result in increased bilateral, multilateral and transnational interactions and expect a clear, transparent and user friendly legal regime based on easily accessible information. Towards this, there exist several papers, articles and books composed by experts from the Academia, Industry and also the Department of Space, India making the case for a well-designed legal framework and elaborating on issues to be addressed for a streamlined functioning of the complete ecosystem. I have presented a consolidated report on the same in this article.

It is to be noted that there does exist a policy framework under which ISRO and the Department of Space operates and works towards the utilization of outer space for social-economic development of the country. A brief overview of these policies are given below.

  • Industry Participation Policy towards the promotion of active engagement of the domestic industry by – promoting sub-system level designs and supply, encouraging industry’s utilization of ISRO’s facilities, facilitate technology transfer to industry, offer ISRO’s technical consultancy services to the industry players.
  • Commercialization Policy for sale and lease of Indian space assets and services such as – commercial dissemination of earth observation imagery through International ground stations, lease of transponder space on-board INSAT to governmental and non-governmental users, launch services by PSLV and GSLV, Telemetry & Telecommand (TTC) support for foreign satellites, design, development & manufacture of communication satellites for international customers internationally through Antrix Corporation.
  • Remote Sensing Data Policy that contains modalities for managing, permitting the acquisition & dissemination of earth observation imagery with Department of Space (DOS) of the Government of India as the nodal agency
  • SatCom Policy to facilitate use of INSAT satellites’ transponders by private players and also build and operate communication satellites for them
  • International Cooperation Policy to facilitate bilateral and multilateral cooperation programmes for mutual growth, by allowing non-ISRO and foreign payloads to piggyback on Indian satellites; also participation of scientists and policy experts in international discussions
  • Human Resource Development Policy so as to retain the critical contributing workforce by offering incentives; sponsored research for creating capacity in the academia
  • Effective user participation to promote utilization of space assets and services by other departments and ministries via the INSAT Coordination Committee (ICC), Planning Committee of National Natural Resource Management System (PC-NNRMS) and Advisory Committee on Space Sciences (ADCOS)
  • Technology Upgradation Policy towards realization of indigenous cost-effective space systems and subsystems for the satellites, launch vehicles and the ground support systems.

However, only the Satellite Communication Policy of 1997 and the Remote Sensing Data Policy (RSDP) of 2011 are explicitly mentioned under India’s Space Policy on ISRO’s website.

Panel Discussion

This panel had an interesting mix of speakers from the defense, law, government and industry domains.

Gp Cpt Ajey Lele from the Institute for Defence Studies Analyses, an India think-tank on security and strategic studies, began the panel discussion presenting three arguments against India having a space legislation.

Argument 1 A decade ago, nobody believed that ISRO would reach the Mars, and this impossible feat was accomplished without having any space law in place. The future missions can be accomplished similarly, sans space law.
Argument 2 ISRO is yet to make its GSLV Mk-3 operational. Formulating a space law can be considered after the current projects are complete.
Argument 3 ISRO has been displaying immense potential and capability, having a space law would only limit its innovation.

These arguments might have been the reason behind the lack of political will towards enacting a space law in the country. He strongly opines the need for independent policy frameworks for the commercial, social and strategic space sectors given the different motivation and modus operandi of their space missions. He also emphasises that the domestic space policy should evolve keeping in mind India’s stance on outer space on the international front. India has always followed the norms of the five major space treaties it is signatory to, has accepted the norms of Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures (TCBM) in Outer Space, the International Code of Conduct for Outer Space, and has never opposed the PPWT (Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects). The strategic space policy of India should be framed in such a manner as to not support weaponization of outer space. He also underscored the need for a structural mechanism, wherein the India Space Command would have a Military Space Commission similar to the current Space Commission of the Department of Space. Also required are a robust legal architecture, space situational awareness mechanism and importantly, counter space mechanism.

(Note Speaking of weaponization of outer space, given the ASAT tests by the US, Russia and China, there exist equally strong arguments in favour of and against India demonstrating ASAT capability, especially after the former DRDO Chief VK Saraswat declared India’s readiness for ASAT. The argument against demonstration cites the philosophy of the Indian Space Program since its inception of utilising space technology as a tool for the benefit of the mankind. It is concerned that the international image of India as a peaceful democracy would be tarnished, not to mention the space debris the test would create. The argument in favour draws a parallel with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty NPT that only accepted those states (which are also UN Security Council permanent members) as nuclear power states that had acquired nuclear weapons capability before 1970. India only carried out the first nuclear explosion in 1974 and had since been under several sanctions as coercion to make it sign the NPT (India, China and NPT). If India doesn’t demonstrate its Asat capability, the three states who have already proven theirs might formulate a similar non-Asat treaty and India would again get coerced to accept the same and refrain from carrying out an Asat test. Asat capability will give India significant leverage in international bilateral and multilateral negotiations, which will be forever lost if such an anti-Asat treaty comes into force.
A good compilation on the history of ASAT-tests is published here)

Ashok GV, a lawyer with clients in the defence, aeronautics and space sectors focused his talk on the commercial industry and startup community perspectives of space policy. The key players in the Indian space ecosystem are currently ISRO, the Department of Space and the commercial arm Antrix Corp. He opines that the biggest challenge to the domestic space law will be in balancing the competing interests of all stakeholders while simultaneously considering national security in times of rising trends of weaponization of space, preserving the socio-economic oriented legacy of the Indian space program, regulations of international space law treaties and directives, and the emerging commercial space players. The liability aspects of the domestic law should be especially robust given the increasing number of commercial launches of ISRO. With the Department of Space acting as a regulator while its ISRO acts as a service provider, there is a clear case of conflict of interest and measures should be taken to inspire confidence among the emerging private players. As a solution, he suggests increasing the role of Department of Telecom as a regulator, since they have already experienced the Indian Telecom sector ecosystem and their insights can benefit the SatCom arena, while also incentivising the participation of domestic private players. Moreover, the role of regulator should be clearly defined with strict guidelines for transparency and accountability in place. An interesting point he made, was the need for a clear code of conduct in times of national security threats such as debris collisions with our critical satellites or direct attacks on our space assets such as Asat.

Narayan Prasad, co-founder of space and energy companies in India and the US said that we should look at national space policy as space infrastructure rather than a mere regulatory framework. From his decade long experience, the biggest lacuna is the absence of a detailed study of the overall space economy. There is not a single metric that gives the size of the Indian space economy, other than the book by U Sankar, but it is a decade old and doesn’t apply today.
(Note ISRO does release an Outcome Budget annually, but the report only mentions the expenditures of ISRO’s missions and doesn’t include any breakup of the industry contributions nor the industry revenues)
He says that despite the Indian market being very big, there is no startup support ecosystem in India. More important than providing economic incentives to the domestic SMEs is contributing towards their scale and global presence, so that instead of rotation of tax money they would eventually bring foreign revenues to the Indian space sector. An annual study whose metrics include the private industry and integrate India’s space economy is the need of the hour.

K R Sridhara Murthi has spent three decades of his career between ISRO, Antrix and now the academia. He compared the decade long debate on India’s space policy to the story of blind men touching an elephant. Policy is driven by goal and so far the goal of the Indian space program has been societal development and has resulted in the operational status of today. India’s space budget is about 0.05% of the nation’s GDP which is much lower than that of other major space faring countries. In spite of this and its fragmented framework of policies such as the Satcom policy, RSDP, Technology Transfer Policy, Industrial Trade and Security related policies as per international treaty obligations and guidelines, ISRO has successfully carried out the Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE–1), and the cost-effective Mars and Moon missions. It has tapped into the commercial space through Antrix by providing launch services and lease of satellite transponders. It has even collaborated internationally with other space agencies such as NASA, CNES.  Therefore, he says, the question is whether India needs to renew its space policy. Given the unique opportunities for India such as its young demographic, expanding education, urbanisation, there is a great growth potential for India to become a major economic power. However, this transition would be greatly aided by positioning space technology to offer solutions in convergence with ICT technology and growing mobile environments. Space technology in the form of GIS can solve many governance challenges. Therefore, he says, there is a need a need for the space policy approach to move from being space agency centric towards facilitating a national space ecosystem.

Very soon, disruptive technologies in the launch market will change the entire price structure of launch services and ISRO should start focusing on developing reusable launch vehicles. As Prof Satish Dhawan, former ISRO chairman, had said, ISRO should refrain from doing what the industry is capable of and instead concentrate on R&D. Since space is all about long-term, he said ISRO now needs a new program and direction, now that it has achieved operational status. There needs to be a new wave of drive for R&D and innovation with the major motivation being societal benefit, but through a long-term vision of development of the space economy and space ecosystem as a whole.

Marco Aliberti, a Resident Fellow at the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) in Vienna, was the only non-Indian speaker at the session and presented an outsider’s view of the Indian space program. He quipped that the most frustrating aspect of the Indian Space program is that whatever one says about it, the opposite is also true. He says the apparent absence of need for a declared space policy amongst the policy makers can either be because of the lack of a strategic vision or the intention to provide flexibility to actors. However, he says, a declared space policy would clearly communicate to new players the opportunities and the boundaries. It is also of utmost importance for international cooperation, in that, it would help foreign players to better identify the scope of collaboration and frame their terms and offers of cooperation in more practical ways. Moreover, it is highly essential for Outer space Transparency and Confidence Building Measures. He opines that the current B2B environment of the Indian space ecosystem is non-structured, scattered with no sharing of vendor information between ISRO’s centers. He says their is a need for clear regulatory mechanisms to stimulate and streamline the B2B environment and also the ecosystem as a whole.

The speakers were then asked by Mukund Rao of National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) from the audience for their take on the underlying purpose of a national space policy in one sentence. Their answers can very well summarise the panel discussion.

Expansion of national economy.

Addressing the existing last mile ambiguity.

Identification of national security and economic priorities.


Indian Space Legislation: Consolidated Report on Issues & Recommendations

There exist several papers, articles and books composed by experts from the Academia, Industry and also the Department of Space, India making the case for a well-designed legal framework towards a streamlined functioning of the complete Indian Space ecosystem. This article is a consolidated report covering the major issues raised and recommendations made from sources such as

National Regulation of Space Activities

The International Law of Outer Space and Consequences at the National Level for India: Towards an Indian National Space Law?

India’s Round Table Conference on Issues for National Space Legislation

Space 2.0: Shaping India’s Leap into the Final Frontier

With the Indian Government aiming to accelerate and expand the use of space technology in national projects and calling for increased industry participation in its space program, there seem to be two broad motivations for formulating a full-fledged national space legislation – ensuring national space security and regulation of private player activities in space.

1. Protection of National Interests and National Security

National space legislation cannot in any way modify a state’s international obligations laid down in the space treaties. However, most of the international space regulations and in particular the Outer Space Treaty (1967), the Liability Convention (1972) and the Registration Convention (1976) impose numerous obligations on governments that cannot somehow be transferred to private entities. The national laws are to be framed so as to regulate the activity of private entities.

1.1. Registration of Space Objects

Since 1987, the DoS maintains the Indian Registry of all objects launched into outer space by India and furnishes appropriate information to the UN Secretary General through the Permanent Mission of India to the UN (Vienna).

  • However, a system is to be put in place to establish how and when a space operator will provide data about its space object to the state for inclusion in the Indian and UN Registries.

In the current globalised world, there are four possibilities for a launching state for one single mission: the state which launches; the state which procures the launch service; the state from whose territory the launch occurs; and the state which owns the launch facility

  • Therefore, it will be required to establish clear rules so as to prevent double registration since only ONE state must register with the UN.

1.2. Liability of Launching State

The Liability Convention (1972) places absolute and unlimited liability on the launching state for damage caused on Earth or to aircrafts in flight by the space object; Fault liability for damage caused elsewhere; Joint liability of all the four possible launching states.

Given the primary liability of the authorizing state, prerequisites are to be laid down by the state to guarantee that the amount paid by the state for the damage caused by space objects of private entities will eventually be recoverable. Some conditions can be:

  • Compulsory insurance covering the launch
  • Compulsory insurance covering the operation of the space object
  • Issuance and transfer of launch and reentry licenses under state control
  • Proof of ability to compensate for liability claims
  • Maintain insurance throughout the period of operation

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the US and the French National Space Act of 2008 include some of these measures. Commercial launch license in the US is the responsibility of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation of the FAA. As per the French Space Operations Act (FSOA) 2008 – Operator should maintain insurance; Operator absolutely liable for damage on earth and airspace; right to make claim for indemnification by the operator, when Govt. pays compensation as per international liability

1.3. Authorization and Supervision

Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty states that “The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty”.

Article VI does not directly require the enactment of national space legislation, but ultimately this has emerged as the optimal solution to govern the authorization and supervision of private activities in outer space. Moreover, formulating a national act will serve additional purposes:

  • Establish safety standards and guidelines for space activities in general
  • Mechanism to ensure adherence to the safety guidelines by private parties
  • Guidelines towards space debris mitigation and prevention
  • Ensuring non-interference of private activities with national security and foreign policy interests

2. Rising Private Player Participation

The origins of the multi-billion dollar Virgin Galactic, world’s first commercial spaceline, can be traced back to the Ansari X Prize whose winners founded the Mojave Aerospace firm which had developed the suborbital spacecraft for Virgin. This is one live example underscoring the fact that innovation is the main ingredient of competition that in turn builds excellence.

45 years after the last human visit to the moon under the US Government’s Apollo Program that costed $110 Billion in today’s money, the private space company SpaceX is attempting to do a manned fly-by at a fractional cost.
(* NASA has awarded SpaceX $2.6 billion to finish the crewed version of its Dragon capsule. Since the cost of the manned lunar fly-by is hinted to be “a little more than” the cost of a crewed mission to the ISS, even a $5 billion cost is only 5% of the Apollo mission. However, the Apollo program was too grand to be compared to this private fly-by mission, for the former involved 24 astronauts of which 12 landed on the moon and 6 drove roving vehicles on the surface. Moreover, SpaceX like other private companies such as United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Arianespace are subsidised by its Government)

Certainly, handholding by the Governments is necessary in the high-risk entry-barrier laden business of space, for at least a decade or so.

2.1. Promoting Domestic Industry Participation

The “Make in India” initiative has the potential to create the needed competitive environment with the participation of the government-industry-academia triad. Additionally, the following policy initiatives can be taken

  • Setting up a national fund for promotion of entrepreneurship on similar lines of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) & Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program and ESA’s Open Sky Technologies Fund (OSTF).
  • Establishing a Business Incubation Center (BIC) in a public-private partnership mode involving ISRO, downstream space applications based startups, government departments associated with entrepreneurship and economic development, domestic space industry players, and venture capital firms in the lines of ESA BIC.
  • Promoting interdependent engagement of academia-industry-agency where each of these stakeholders have concrete involvement in deliverables and gain significant benefits having long term ecosystem prospects of spin-offs.
    The cutting edge Hodoyoshi micro-satellite series by Japan developed through collaboration between its industry and academia. Hoyodoshi-I was a collaboration between the University of Tokyo and Axelspace, a startup company.
  • Setting up a national prize event along the lines of Google’s X-Prize with ISRO being the primary promoter and bringing potential investors and stakeholders on the same table to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.
    TeamIndus is one of the leading teams in the Google Lunar X-Prize and is gearing up for a moon landing in Dec 2017 onboard the PSLV.
  • Establish an independent national think tank that can provide a fair assessment in purview of national goals, key insights on space programme management, dual-use of technologies, economic impacts of space expenditures, space law, international cooperative space agreements, among other matters.
    The European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) provides decision-makers with an informed view on mid- to long-term issues relevant to Europe’s space activities

On the other hand, given the Indian Space Program’s philosophy of primarily catering to the needs of the common man, there is an ethical obligation on the industry players to observe a CSR outlook towards the new space ethos. Additionally, they need to establish an institutional system such as a union or a chamber of commerce that can act as a platform to voice out their opinions, discuss solutions for their issues and cooperate with each other for the growth of the industry as a whole.

2.2. Regulatory Gaps to be Addressed

Policies for the participation of private players do exist, such as the Satellite Communication Policy whose fundamental aim includes development of communications satellite and ground equipment industry as well as satellite communications service industry in India; and the Remote Sensing Data Policy (2011) that allows, under some restrictions, private sector agencies to disseminate satellite remote sensing data in India. There exist areas in the current space regulation regime of the country where the private actors offer recommendations for the growth of the entire domestic private space industry:

2.2.1. Technology Transfer & IPR Issues

  • Establishment of definite timelines for private player collaborations and interactions with the DoS for technology transfer
  • Clarity on IPR of spin-off technologies resulting from a transferred technology
  • Clarity on patenting issues over inventions made onboard space objects as addressed in the 35 U.S. Code § 105 – Inventions in outer space.

2.2.2. Liability & Insurance

  • Placing caps on insurance claims with the government covering the additional amount in cases when a third-party claim exceeds the licensee’s insurance.
    As per the US Indemnification Policy under the Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA), the US government covers any third-party claims in excess of $500 million (required insurance coverage cap) to a limit of $3 billion.
  • A common national liability pool involving all major stakeholders to prevent the faulting player from going bankrupt and also to avoid burdening the state exchequer if the player somehow turns out to be unable to pay the liability
  • The existing Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 can be expanded and elaborated for the space sector

2.2.3. Registration & Licensing

  • Transferability of licenses & registration and terms of transfer, given the obvious fact that selling and buying of space assets will be an integral aspect of space business
  • Distribution of liability amongst the participating parties when there is a transfer of ownership
  • Transfer clauses specially when the transfers are done between states or parties belonging to different states

2.2.4. Capacity Building

  • The GNSS user meet jointly hosted by ISRO and Airports Authority of India (AAI) in 2015 is a commendable initiative towards encouraging industry participation in development of communication satellite infrastructure. Guidelines on establishment of ground support systems and receiver systems are to be detailed.

2.2.5. Miscellaneous

  • Establishment of an ‘Office of Space Commerce’ as a principal unit under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India that can act as the regulating body for private participation
  • Guidelines on dispute resolution mechanisms given the high technology, high risk and dual-nature of space activities, between non-government as well as government entities

3. Conclusion

The way forward is definitely to draft a national legislation. However, given the multiple vantage points of the different stakeholders involved and the fact that law in general can be interpreted in several ways, drafting a space law that meets the approval of every player will be an intricate if not tedious task. With the additional requirement of adhering to obligations of the international space treaties India has signed, legal framework of space is certain to be elaborate and probably more complex than that of the terrestrial facets of the country.

Please refer the other articles for the latest discussion on the Indian Space Policy “ 3rd Kalpana Chawla Annual Space Policy Dialogue 2017“.