On 2 February, 1968, the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launch Station (TERLS) was dedicated to the United Nations by India’s then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. This became a landmark in the history of the Indian space program. It came at a time when the program was at a nascent stage, just trying to stand on its feet. The dedication of TERLS to the United Nations (UN) was done even before the birth of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which started as an institution only a year later on 15 August, 1969 (on India’s 22nd Independence Day). TERLS came into existence way back on 21 November 1963, when India’s first sounding rocket was launched from Thumba near Thiruvananthapuram. During the 1960s, TERLS became an international launch station and the sounding rockets launched from here proved instrumental in studying the equatorial electro jet. At that time, the Indian space program received good support from countries like the US, USSR, France, UK and West Germany who provided technical equipment to TERLS, such as telemetry receivers, tracking systems and computers.
Today, the Indian space program is a much more robust program with India’s mars mission as well as the lunar mission (Chandrayaan-1) already behind us. The prospect of sending a manned space flight is still a distant idea, but in a not very distant future, it could very well be realized. This needs a lot of financial investment, and ISRO is still working on a limited budget as compared to space agencies like National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities.
India has signed and ratified most of the outer space and international space legislations. As of now, there are five major UN treaties on outer space, namely, The Outer Space Treaty in 1967, The Rescue Agreement in 1968, The Liability Convention in 1982, The Registration Convention in 1975 and the Moon Agreement in 1979. Apart from the Moon Agreement (which India has signed), India has signed and ratified all other treaties. Domestically, the Space Activities Bill, 2017 has been drafted.