Aug 25, 2023

The Legal Framework Behind Chandrayaan-3

On Wednesday evening, Lander Vikram and Rover Pragyaan landed in the southern polar region on the moon, as part of India’s lunar mission, Chandrayaan-3. This successful mission makes India the first country in the world to reach the south of the moon and the fourth country in the world to land on the moon, ever! 

Since 1963, when India launched its first rocket, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has had a monopoly over India’s space programs. It now aims to launch a solar observatory called Aditya-L1 in September and later, an Earth observation satellite jointly with NASA. 

As India’s space exploration programs gain momentum, let’s understand how India regulates this domain through its policies for space. 

Some of India’s Space Laws: 

This Policy was one of the first laws regarding space in India and it serves to: 

  • Develop an efficient satellite communications service industry 
  • Use and develop India’s capabilities in terms of satellites 
  • Develop a communications satellite as well as a ground equipment industry
  • Ensure that the infrastructure made by the Indian National Satellite System is widely available


This policy was set up for and by ISRO exclusively for establishing a systematic mode of transferring technologies made by the Department of Space Industry and calculate the cost of this technological development.

This Policy governs the collection and transmission of satellite remote sensing data by any non-government user. The revised policy replaced the 2001 Remote Sensing Data Policy. This Law is applicable to both Indian and foreign satellites. 

The Indian Space Policy, 2023 seeks to pursue international relations, and create an ecosystem for effective implementation of space applications among all stakeholders for the nation’s socio-economic development and security, protection of environment and lives, pursuing peaceful exploration of outer space, stimulation of public awareness and scientific quest.

Through the Indian Space Policy, 2023, the Government will regulate the space activities of various stakeholders and seek to create a thriving space economy in India. Some features of this policy include:

1. Non Government Entities (NGEs) will be allowed to undertake end-to-end activities among others, like:

  • national and international space-based communication services
  • manufacture and operate space transportation systems
  • provide end-to-end services for safe operations and maintenance in space

subject to the guidelines/ regulations prescribed by IN-SPACe- Indian National Space Promotion & Authorisation Centre. 

2. IN-SPACe, a single-window, independent nodal agency formed in 2020, under the Department of Space, will function as an autonomous Government organization, to promote, hand-hold, guide and authorize space activities in the country. It will:

  •  act as the single window agency for the authorisation of space activities by government entities as well as NGEs
  • work with academia to widen the space ecosystem 
  • define frameworks for developing space industry standards, based on global benchmarks
  • enable sharing of best-practices with private entities for enabling technology ecosystem.
  • issue guidelines for meeting safety and security requirements for space objects

3. Indian Space Research Organization ISRO, was formed on August 15, 1969 and superseded the Indian National Committee for Space Research, INCOSPAR,  with an expanded role to harness space technology. In 1972, the Department of Space was set-up and ISRO was brought under the DoS. As the National Space Agency, it will focus primarily on research and development of new space technologies and applications, and for expanding the human understanding of outer space. It will:

  • carry out applied research and development of newer systems
  • share technologies, products, processes and best practices with NGEs and/or Government companies
  • define and develop collaborative framework for scientific research in multidisciplinary domains linked to human space activities. 
  • make available archived satellite data and satellite derived thematic data from remote sensing satellites of ISRO on ‘free and open’ basis
  • transition out from the existing practice of being present in the manufacturing of operational space systems.

4. NewSpace India Limited NSIL, as the Public Sector Undertaking under the Department of Space (DOS) shall: 

  • be responsible for commercializing space technologies and platforms that are created through public expenditure. 
  • manufacture, lease, or procure space components, technologies, platforms and other assets from private or public sector
  • serve the space-based needs of users, whether Government entities or NGEs

5. The Department of Space, DoS will:

  • be the nodal department for implementation of the Indian Space Policy, 2023 
  • oversee the distribution of responsibilities outlined in this policy 
  • establish framework to ensure safe and sustainable space operations, that comply with the relevant international space debris mitigation guidelines
  • coordinate international cooperation and coordination in the area of global space governance and programmes in consultation with Ministry of External Affair
  • create appropriate mechanisms to resolve any dispute arising out of space activity. 

India is also a signatory to various International Treaties for space exploration:

  1. The Outer Space Treaty, signed in 1967. It governs state activities in space research and utilization, including the moon and other celestial bodies. 
  2. The Rescue Agreement, signed in 1968. It deals with the rescue of astronauts, their safe return and the recovery of space objects. 
  3. The Moon Treaty, signed in 1979. It governs state activity on the moon and other celestial bodies. 
  4. The Liability Convention, 1972 which addresses international liability damage caused by space objects. 
  5. The Registration Convention, 1975 for the registration of objects in outer space.