Kalpana Chawla Space Dialogue

Kalpana Chawla Space Dialogue LogoSpace technology is revolutionising the economic and social structures on Earth. The growing number of entrepreneurs utilising data derived from satellites for providing financial, technological, legal and security solutions demonstrate the limitless potential of space technology for benefitting societies. There are commercial actors manufacturing, launching and maintaining satellites, particularly small satellites.

Even as outer space is becoming democratised, the longstanding issues of space security and sustainability remains. In fact, these issues have become much complex owing to the increasing number of commercial actors as well as developing countries trying to become spacefaring nations. Inadvertent transfers of dual-use technology and increasing cyber capabilities are threatening global norms on outer space. These norms, which are mostly developed during the Cold War, are yet to catch up with the reality.

Therefore, Observer Research Foundation (ORF) holds ORF Kalpana Chawla Annual Space Policy Dialogue gathering executives, policymakers, technologists, entrepreneurs, and academicians to discuss the disruptive trends from the current state of space activities. This platform is unique in advocating the need for a national space policy for India to promote entrepreneurship and innovation in security, civil and commercial space applications. Through an engaging dialogue on various themes and networking opportunities, participants will discover new ideas from across traditional and non-traditional space actors.

This Dialogue is initiated in the memory of Dr. Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian-American woman in space. She was part of the growing trend of international cooperation in outer space between India and the United States. Her research represents cross-cultural efforts on behalf of all mankind for the betterment of life on Earth and our understanding of outer space. Her tragic accident on board the Columbia Space Shuttle reminds us that the stakes are very high when it comes to space exploration but exemplifying the belief that the rewards outweigh the dangers. Her accomplishments further prove that traditional barriers such as nationality and gender are giving way to closer ties between people all across the globe.

In honour of Dr. Chawla, ORF holds this annual dialogue highlighting the success of India’s cooperation with all the major spacefaring nations and to discuss ways to mitigate the socio-political challenges on Earth that must still be overcome.

Panel 1: India’s Space Policy: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

  • What are the key drivers for a National Space Policy?
  • What are the policy frameworks required for India to enable a greater private sector participation?
  • What are the sector-specific policies that need to be addressed?
  • What are the lessons that can be learnt from other space actors in formulating an Indian Space Policy?

Panel 2: Global Governance of Space

  • Are the existing norms and regulations sufficient to address the emerging challenges in outer space?
  • How can the debates within the UN institutions over the past year lead to concrete mechanism/ arrangements involving all the key stakeholders?
  • Are new regimes required to bring about regulations for the emerging activities such as space mining, in-space manufacturing, and building of space habitats?
  • What is the role of export control regimes in strengthening outer space regimes?
  • Are there existing regulations from other domains that can be usefully adapted to address the challenges in outer space?
  • How can the private sector be incorporated in international discussions on these issues?

Panel 3: Women in Space: Challenges and Way Ahead

  • How can women bring a different perspective to space-related issues?
  • What are the challenges a woman faces in working in a sector that has a highly skewed gender ratio? How can such challenges be overcome?
  • What initiatives can be taken to widen possibilities for women to pursue space-related education and careers?
  • What role can international organisations play to bring about a systematic and long-term impact?

Panel 4: Crowded Outer Space: Challenges of Mega Constellations and Space Junk

  • What are the major risks associated with mega-constellations in space?
  • Are the current regulatory frameworks adequate to deal with the challenges of mega-constellations?
  • What are the key considerations for relevant actors and stakeholders in the future?

Panel 5: Trends in Space Weaponisation: Challenges for the Indo-Pacific

  • What is space weaponisation? Can there be a useful definition of what a space weapon is?
  • Is it better to have a technology vs behavioural approach in the space weaponisation debate?
  • What are the current technological trends in space weaponisation?
  • Which of these is most threatening? Weapons in space vs space-ground vs ground-space weapons?
  • How do these space weaponisation trends play out in the Indo-Pacific?

Panel 6: Space and Telecommunications

  • What are the current and future trends in satellites broadcasting and broadband services? What are the driving factors pushing this trend?
  • How effective is the current regulatory framework in enabling satellite broadcasting and broadband?
  • What policy measures are required to create a level playing field between domestic and foreign players?

Panel 7: Opening up the Indian Space Sector: The Role of the Private Sector

  • How can the traditional state-led space agencies encourage/incentivise private sector participation in the space program?
  • Are the current models of PPP and other institutional support adequate in supporting the growth of this sector?
  • Is there a role for space insurance in this policy discussion?
  • What are the challenges facing commercial actors taking on military contracts?
  • How do you respond to recent initiatives such as IN-SPACe and IspA in strengthening the role of industry?

Panel 8: Emerging Actors in Space

  • What are the main drivers for emerging space programmes? What are the opportunities and challenges?
  • What role can international and regional space organisations play in enhancing space collaboration between established and emerging space actors?
  • How do the emerging space players view the international norms and regimes in terms of space capability development assistance?


Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Dr Rajeswari (Raji) Pillai Rajagopalan is the Director of the Centre for Security, Strategy and Technology (CSST) at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. Dr Rajagopalan was the Technical Advisor to the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) (July 2018-July 2019). She was also a Non-Resident Indo-Pacific Fellow at the Perth USAsia Centre from April-December 2020. As a senior Asia defence writer for The Diplomat, she writes a weekly column on Asian strategic issues.
Contact: rpr@orfonline.org
Phones: +91 981891568

Pulkit Mohan

Pulkit Mohan

Pulkit Mohan is an Associate Fellow with the Centre for Security, Strategy and Technology (CSST) at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. Her research focuses on the intersection of cyber security and nuclear security and nuclear deterrence, with a focus on South Asia. She is also works extensively on India’s nuclear programme and the utilisation of nuclear energy.

Samyak Rai Leekha

Samyak Rai Leekha

Samyak Rai Leekha is a Junior Fellow with the Centre for Security, Strategy & Technology at ORF. Mr. Leekha’s area of interest is at the intersection of IT, warfare, international relations, privacy & great power competition.