People watch a live stream of Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft's landing on the moon, in Ahmedabad

People watch a live stream of Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft’s landing on the moon, inside an auditorium of Gujarat Science City in Ahmedabad, India, August 23, 2023. REUTERS/Amit Dave Acquire Licensing Rights

BENGALURU, Aug 24 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Nearly seven million people watched India’s space program make history on Wednesday. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) became the first to land near the moon’s unexplored south pole. India can go further faster if it fuels up its private sector.

India accounts for a paltry 2% of the $360 billion space economy but it’s early days. Elon Musk-owned SpaceX has a lead position in cost-effective satellite launches with its reusable rockets. Indian companies are finding their niche in software and services to support the space sector. The country has over 100 spacetech startups, according to EY. Nearly half were launched in 2021 alone, when private investments nearly tripled. Peak XV Partners, formerly Sequoia India and Southeast Asia, in June led a $10 million investment in Digantara, which maps space debris. Launch-vehicle maker Skyroot Aerospace raised $51 million in September in a funding round led by Singapore’s GIC, a deal it boasted was the sector’s largest ever.

At $74 million, the bill for India’s moon mission was less than the cost of producing 2013 Hollywood space thriller “Gravity”. But more funds are needed. New Delhi is finalising new foreign direct investment rules, and that will likely turbocharge India’s space startups. (By Pranav Kiran)

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own.)

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Editing by Una Galani and Streisand Neto

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