Shillong: The precursor meeting of the G20 Space Economy Leaders Meeting (SELM) began on Monday in Shillong, Meghalaya, under India’s G20 Presidency. The two-day event aims to highlight the capabilities of ISRO and the Department of Space and promote collaboration in future science missions.

The opening ceremony of the meeting took place at the Hotel Courtyard by Marriott and was attended by several dignitaries, including Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, Union Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhury, Union Minister of State (Ind. Charge) Science & Tech Dr Jitendra Singh (virtually), Amitabh Kant, Secretary of the Department of Space (DOS) Somanath S, Chairman IN-SPACe Dr Pawan Kumar Goenka, and others.

In his address, Union Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhury highlighted that the Indian economy is growing at a faster rate, and the New Space Segment is a significant contributor to this growth. He emphasized the importance of conducting space activities in a responsible manner and promoting New Space to further fuel the space economy. Chaudhury also emphasized the need for India to establish possible alliances with other G20 members who have already established space agencies and industries.

Chaudhury further stated that space-based technologies are recognized as one of the key contributors to growth and prosperity. Satellite-based earth observation, satellite communications, and navigation have positive impacts in various sectors, such as agriculture, disaster management, transportation, health, and addressing climate change issues.

Highlighting the government’s commitment to developing and promoting space technology for the nation, Chaudhury said, “The Indian space program was established with the intention of harnessing the benefits of space technology to solve the problems faced by the common man. The Government of India recognizes space as a key contributor to the development of the Indian economy in the future.”

To facilitate this, the government has opened up the Indian space sector for private investments through the 2020 space sector reforms. Chaudhury also stressed the need for vital alliances with responsible space actors to enhance the contribution of the space economy to the global economy.

Dr. Jitendra Singh, who addressed the inaugural session virtually, noted that significant progress has been made in India’s space sector. He stated that space technology has penetrated into all aspects of life in recent years, resulting in a significant demand for space-based services that have huge commercial potential. ISRO has been striving hard to meet this demand while also focusing on research and development of new technologies and applications.

Singh further emphasized that the government, led by Prime Minister Modi, has taken a path-breaking decision to open up the space sector for the Indian private industry through the 2020 Space Sector Reforms. This move aims to enhance the participation of private players in end-to-end space activities, which will eventually increase India’s contribution to the global space economy.

Chief Minister of Meghalaya Conrad K Sangma expressed his gratitude for the Prime Minister’s decision to hold G20 programs throughout the country. He said, “If we consider the theme of today’s discussion on space technology and the economy, the fact that it is happening here in Shillong is something I feel very privileged about.”

Sangma also noted that India has undergone significant reforms recently and while the country as a whole has moved forward, Northeast India and states like Meghalaya, which had not previously experienced significant economic growth, have now become part of the country’s economic success.

In his address, G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant stated that India firmly believes that the global community must think and act as one in the journey to and through the final frontier of space. He referred to the historical event and the thought shared by Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian citizen who went to space – “Anyone who goes to space tried to look at his own country first, but soon it appears that there is no boundary between the countries and the entire world is one family where our destinies are integrated.” Kant appealed to the delegates and participants to take a moment to consider how this thought, shared decades ago, is reflected in the theme of India’s G20 Presidency, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “One Earth. One Family. One Future.”

Kant spoke about the enormous potential of space technology, stating that it can provide digital communication services even in the hardest-to-reach places and can monitor cyclones, rainfall, and crop cycles. He emphasized that space-based technology solutions can help all nations leapfrog in socio-economic development. Kant also urged the G20 to recognize that space-based technology solutions play a central enabling role in development in each nation and as a global community.

In his address, Somanath S, Chairman of ISRO, praised the Northeastern Space Applications Centre for their work in addressing the region’s specific problems. He expressed hope that the efforts of the conference participants would yield fruitful outcomes and assist the space community in different nations. Emphasizing the power of the G20, he added that space applications for the benefit of mankind can play a significant role in contributing to the global economy.

He also stressed the need for cooperation among nations to develop space technology and its applications, pointing out that there have been many bilateral relationships between nations and these relationships should be strengthened further. Somanath S also mentioned the recent Indian Space Policy 2023, which aims to institutionalize and facilitate private sector participation in the space sector for India while also maintaining the vision of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai.

During the technical deliberations in today’s program, the delegates discussed the perspectives of their respective G20 countries on the space economy and the current state of the space economy in their countries. They also discussed the efforts made by their respective governments to promote the space economy, including the New Space, and the challenges they faced. Following this, a session on the policy perspectives of the space economy was also held, where think tanks and experts gave curated talks on specific aspects of the space economy.

he second session on Space Economy was moderated by Dr Pawan Kumar Goenka, Chairman of INSPACe, who provided insightful discussions on “Evolving Indian space policy framework and future outlook”. The panel consisted of other prominent leaders in relevant fields, and they deliberated on various topics such as the framework for measuring space economy, New Space, responsibility for sustainable and safe space operations, the New Space economy in the G20 countries, and opportunities for collaboration, among others.

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The meeting was attended by 28 delegates from G20 and guest countries including Argentina, Australia, France, South Korea, Mexico, Türkiye, the USA, Oman, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, China, Russia, the Netherlands, Germany, Indonesia, and the UK. Prominent international and national experts also participated in the discussions.

As a precursor to the event, startups in the space economy sector showcased their products. Some of the participating startups were Alpha Design, Satsure, OneWeb, Data Patterns, Centum Azista Aerospace, Caliche, L&T, SkyServe, Ananth Technologies, Agnikul, Digantara, Pixxel, and Dhruva Space.

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