“Now, L&T and Godrej can join hands like Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s ULA,” says Gateway House scholar cheering India’s ‘biggest space reform’

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcements to help the private sector collaborate with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) are the “single biggest reform in India’s space program,” according to Gateway House fellow Chaitanya Giri.

In an exclusive interview, he told Business Insider that now, the road is clear for the likes of L&T and Godrej to join hands to create an Indian version of the United Launch Alliance (ULA), which is a US-based launch service provider with a 100% success rate of missions so far.

Normally, ISRO has discouraged private players from being too big a part of their projects for fear of sensitive data falling into the wrong hands. This time, Sitharaman has assured the industry that sharing data will be done cautiously, it is necessary to help Indian startups thrive.

Here are the excerpts from the conversation:

Q: Are you as excited as I am right now? This seems like a big announcement!

Chaitanya Giri: I have been advocating this for the past eight years. I don’t have any vested interest in it. Being a scholar, I don’t get funded by any startup, I don’t get funded by any venture capitalist. Just out of pure passion for the exploration as well as my love for the nation that I’m advocating this.

And I’m really glad that the government took this decision. They might have thought about it, they might have collated ideas from previous sources. And since we are in a crisis, crisis makes one really unleash a lot of inner energies. The government, by opening up space exploration for the private sector, is trying to unleash these energies.

I’m very excited. This is the single biggest reform in India’s space program — nothing has been bigger than this before.

Q: Do you think ISRO necessarily has to follow these guidelines or is this more of a, “we’ll have to leave it to you and you can do what you want,” kind of scenario?

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