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Space Programmes

Developing Economies

Swaraj Kumar
Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology

Space programmes require multi paradigm research and development which in turn fuels
other sectors involving research intensive growth to progress forward. Hence, there is a
domino effect in high end technology segment which is produced by the ripple caused by the
development in space technology. Government has the obligation to provide the opportunity
for the scientific community to have their chance to leap forward in the field of cosmology.
But what holds them back? The answer is money. Running a successful space program
requires multi billion dollars in investments and high risk on making any returns. However,
the recent trend of private corporations investing and developing new platforms for earning
bucks in space has forced many countries to consider low cost models. These models try to
achieve the short term goals for the developing countries such as for communication and
navigation needs. There is also a dire need for greater amalgamation of already successful
space agencies with the nascent ones. The extensive usage of the space technology far
outweighs the criticism for having an exorbitant space budget and this aspect of space
programmes has been carefully taken up in this report.

Table of Contents

S. No. Title Page No.

1.0 Introduction 3
2.0 Advantages of Space Programmes 3
2.1 Research and Development 3
2.2 Disaster Management 3
2.3 Strategic Interests 3
2.4 Support to Industries 4
3.0 Space Programmes in Developed and Developing Nations 4
3.1 Trajectory of Developed Countries 4
3.2 Difference in Goals 5
3.3 Growth Rate 5
4.0 Cost Reduction of Space Programmes 6
4.1 Collaboration 6
4.2 Joint Development 6
5.0 Exploration versus Exploitation 7
5.1 Private Companies 7
6.0 Conclusion 8

1. Introduction

Space programmes especially in developing countries represent a social dilemma: either

we directly address the needs of individuals or have a multi-billion dollar space program
that will result in social good over a span of time. Exorbitant space budgets have both
pros and cons and this report will highlight both the aspects of investing in space
Recently, India announced its bid to reach Venus. This comes after Indians reached
mars in their first inter planetary endeavour. Within three years, India planned visits to
two planets millions miles apart. The saddening part is that it has been seventy years of
independence yet India has not been able to pull millions out of poverty. India ranks
seventh in terms of space budget but ranks 131st in human development index of 2016
and is bracketed with Pakistan and Bangladesh. Nigeria, ranked 152nd in HDI ranking of
2016 and had a space budget of over 200 million dollars and this is at the time when the
insurgency has peaked in this region of the world. Just as every coin has two sides,
space technologies such as satellite imaging have helped in understanding of crop
patterns and thereby providing increased production. Weather forecasting have been
revolutionized by studying wind and ocean currents and also tracking cyclones, thereby
saving millions of lives. Space explorations not only represent presence of strong
scientific community in the country but also provide a perfect stage for multi discipline
technology demonstration such as communication systems and navigation.

2. Advantages of Space Programmes

2.1 Research and Development

A space agency with just micro and mini satellite launch capability can employ up to 200
scientists that is considered a high end job in a developing country. In addition to this,
there is a huge employment opportunity for semi-skilled and low skilled labour as well.
Space technology involves progress not only in astronomy and astrophysics but can lead
to paradigm shift results in engineering, mathematics and physics.

2.2 Disaster management

Improvement in imaging technology has led to precise monitoring of cyclones and forest
fires. Advancement of technology has now made it possible to track cyclones in real time
and also predict the trajectory it will be taking. This leads to fast evacuations and thus
saves lives and making it easy for the concerned disaster management agencies to act.

2.3 Strategic Interests

Defense is a sensitive topic for any nation. Conventional ways of warfare have integrated
with cutting edge space technology. Cold war provides perfect reflection of what is
unfolding today between many countries like India and China, Saudis and Iranians.
Though the scale might not be of the cold war space race but thirst for strategic edge can

often deviate countries of their priorities.

2.4 Support to Industries

Global Positioning System, a worldwide system of twenty four satellites is being exploited
by thousands of businesses both big and small. Direct to Home (DTH) has made
significant impact to television market, communication link via satellite is also in rigorous
usage. Communication satellite continues to dominate the private satellite segment
providing an impetus to Industrial growth.

3. Space Programmes in Developed and Developing


3.1 Trajectory of Developed Countries

In developed countries there is a growing trend for private space launches. The
dedicated government agencies have been modified to enter inter planetary missions
and to dwell deeper into mysteries of space. Most of the repetitive tasks such as payload
delivery and satellite launches are being given to private players in developed countries
such as SpaceX and Blue Origin in United States of America, Arianespace in France and
many others, competing for a greater market share.

3.2 Difference in Goals

Developed countries want to acquire the next big thing in outer space but the developing
countries want to match the technical expertise of the big space agencies in the field that
will be beneficial for economy and other issues discussed earlier. During this process,
the nascent space agency may develop expertise on some specific domains of the
business but to fill the gap with budget constraints and brain drain problem seems highly
unlikely. Once the economy of the country starts growing its budget will also grow

proportionally and hence the allocation. Space programmes can prove to be a driving
engine of the economy as in the case of India whose space programme grew
exponentially after liberalisation of the economy in 1991. Indias commercial launch
undertaking Antrix made 800 million dollars in satellite launches in 2016.

Developing countries, on the other hand, want to be self-sufficient in commercial

utilisation of outer space and the satellite launch takes the center stage in this segment.
For these nations to actually attract investment for companies, they have to compete in
increased globalized economy. Space infrastructure has certainly acquired its share of
budget as it drives major sector of economy with itself.

3.3 Growth Rate

The growth has been rapid for the upcoming space agencies. They are able to access the
research and development of the already existing agencies. Moreover they have the access
to advanced computing and electronic devices. Hence it is natural for new agencies to grow
at greater pace than their already competing counterparts. China certainly stands out from
the crowd. China has the highest return on investment in the Asian space market.

4. Cost Reduction of Space Programmes

It has been seen that space programmes are expensive but at the same time they are
essential. The only criticism that outer space technology face is the cost. Money spent on
space programmes is nearly equal or more than most of the welfare programs. So, thus
by reducing cost, one can expect to quell criticism for space explorations. Additionally,
this can lead to new avenues for poor nation to have their share of pie in the outer space.

4.1 Collaboration
Scientific collaborations can occur between institutions and governments. When it comes
to sharing of cosmology data the things arent as bright as they seem. There is
reluctance on part of big giants such as National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA) and European Space Agency (ESA) to help the new ones that are coming up.
Collaborations in space technology not only depends on the agencies capabilities but
also on geopolitics. This leads to separation of two organisations sharing the same
vision. This was visible in early 1990 when USA was unwilling to help Indian Space
Research Organisation (ISRO) as Americans perceived India to be in the soviet bloc.

If sharing of scientific data is made possible then it will be easier for a group of countries
to streamline their interests in a particular sector. For example, there can be a
collaboration between NASA and Russian Space Agency. NSA is responsible for
designing and developing payloads and equipments for the International Space Station
(ISS). The Russians are involved in development and firing of rockets that take NASAs
equipment to their destination in outer space.

4.2 Joint Development

As there are many smaller countries trying to enter in space technology business. They
dont need a navigation satellite system of seven-eight satellites. Instead they can opt for
developing the system with their neighbours and thereby, bring down the cost paid by

each stakeholder in the project. ESA is the the best example in this category of space
programme. The map shows the members of ESA (blue- part of European Union (EU),
dark green-Signatories of the Cooperation Agreement, light green - commercial
agreement with EU).

Twenty two countries in Europe are able to come together under a single banner and use
the expertise equally and save millions that will be utilised on other projects. Similarly
African Union (AU) is considering to make a single space agency of fifty one members
that will take Africa to space.

5. Exploration versus Exploitation

A major dilemma in any large scale business is either to innovate and come up with new
products to expand business or to exploit the already developed product and instead on
investing in innovations, divert the cash flow for scaling up manufacturing.
For space technology both needs to go hand in hand. This can be achieved by the
upcoming private launch companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin.

5.1 Private companies

Private firms are driven by money making ambitions and hence tend to go after the
exploitation of the already existing technology and building upon that. For example,
SpaceX takes contracts from NASA to launch small and medium size payloads. NASA
no longer needs to maintain resources for small launches, rather, they focus on
improving the heavier lift offs.
Team Indus is an Indian startup that is planning to send a rover to the moon. This is not
the first time anyone is sending rover to moon. They expect to discover minerals on the
surface of moon and hence might use the findings to generate money. This eases the
pressure on ISRO to develop a rover and send it to moon and they can continue their
preparation for Venus.

6. Conclusion

Space technology is essential for driving many sectors of economy. Its applications are
humungous and are required by every country on the globe. However, there are many
countries which have entered the race late and are likely to be left behind. The only
constraint that stops them is the money factor. Collaboration and joint development of
scientific platforms can be the answer to this problem. Many space agencies have
proven that one can save millions of dollars just by evolving new ideas in basic sciences.
Return on investment in space technology is keeping investors in developing world away
from putting their money in this business. There has been a new trend in developed
countries which have their own successful space program. There has been a huge
upsurge in private investment in these countries which has helped the space agencies to
focus on exploration options leaving exploitation to private operators resulting in high
return of investment. Given the nascent stage of many agencies in Africa and Asia, one
can expect similar development in the upcoming decade as they are rising with
exponential growth rates.