The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is reportedly in talks with global players, including Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, as it seeks tie-ups to boost the country's plans for space tourism. The Space Policy 2023, which was cleared on Thursday, allows private players into the sector, and is expected to give academia, start-ups, and the industry a fillip. The policy also outlines plans to develop reusable launch vehicles, which will be vital in making space tourism an economical proposition.
ISRO Chairman S Somnath indicated last month that space tourism could take off in the country by 2030, with an estimated cost of around INR 6 crore. However, without reusable vehicles, space tourism remains impractical, as only Elon Musk's SpaceX has reusable space vehicles. Currently, companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Boeing, and Virgin Galactic are engaged in space tourism across the world.
A source close to the developments stated that "Space tourism is a commercial activity. We are also looking at private players if they are interested. If the industry comes forward for tech development, we are open to assistance and mentorship." Blue Origin is reportedly discussing space tourism from a commercial point of view, and not for joint development or the establishment of facilities in India.
While there has been a surge in space tourism in recent years, with 13 tourists having been to the International Space Station (ISS) since 2001 and 27 people having gone on suborbital rides thus far, India's space tourism plan remains in the nascent stages. The Director General of Indian Space Association, A K Bhatt, commented that "there is a lot of interest in this internationally," but noted that it may take time in India and largely depends on ISRO's human space mission being completed.
The BS source also noted that space tourism requires a long approval cycle, and the current approved plan for ISRO is the Gaganyaan mission. However, with the Space Policy 2023 allowing private players into the sector, India's plans for space tourism could see significant progress in the coming years.