Space industry in India
India is one of the fastest emerging countries in the space-tech industry, with advancements (and interest) in technology in the country seeing a major boost over the last few years. There are several factors for this recent spike in people’s interest in space, but the major one has to do with the way the country is moving toward more exciting futures and how optimistic the other countries like the USA and Russia are looking towards interplanetary space travel.
Globally, the industry is worth about USD 350 billion today, and ever so slightly expanding. Although India holds only about 3% of that market, it seems like things are really looking up for the emerging economy.
There are several startups in the space-tech industry in India making a name for themselves, with brilliant teams backing them, and a vision that’s as stellar as their numbers. In this article, we’re going to be taking a look at just how big the space-tech industry is, and how some startups are changing the tides for India against the top dogs in the game.
Importance of space technology
There are a lot of benefits that come from space travel, that not many people are aware of – it’s not all about reaching for the stars. Space travel lays the groundwork for a lot of stuff like disaster management, agriculture, environmental protection and education, as well as natural resource management. It has a lot of relevance to everything about human development, particularly in developing countries.
All space activities create a big impact set as key observation of earth for weather and climate – not just now but even 5 to 10 years down the line. There are a lot of developments happening in this space right now, which will benefit the whole planet – things like communication satellites or satellite mega-constellations.
In the distant future, India might even leave a mark on space manufacturing industrialization. Space technology is so important in terms of communication and positioning services as well as the observation of the Earth, which also affects – directly and indirectly – the economic activity related to the government-funded space programs. Everyone believes that humanity will benefit greatly from space now and in the near as well as distant future.
Space startups are in India
Pixxel is a space technology-focused startup that was founded by Awais Ahmed and Kshitij Khandelwal in February of 2019. It was the only space startup that had qualified for the TechStars Starburst space accelerator program, which is located in Los Angeles. This was also back in 2019. Later in December of 2020, they partnered up with a company – NewSpace India limited – which is the commercial arm of India’s premier space agency also known as ISRO, to launch the company’s fully-functional remote sensing satellite on the ISRO PSLV rocket.
Recently Pixxel has also received a funding of 7.3 million dollars which is 52.8 crores INR from TechStars, Omnivore VC and others. Presently, the company is in plans to launch the world’s highest resolution hyperspectral satellite constellation.
- Skyroot Aerospace
This startup is located in Hyderabad, India. Skyroot was founded by Pawan Kumar Chandana and Naga Bharat Dhaka in January 2017 and is the first Indian startup to be privately owned and to have demonstrated its capability to build a homegrown rocket engine which was developed for small satellite launch vehicles (SSLVs). In February 2021, the company partnered up with Bellatrix Aerospace (another eye-turning startup next on the list) for the use of the orbital transfer vehicle of Bellatrix, which is included in the Vikram series of launch vehicles.
The company has successfully raised 4.3 million USD, which also includes space and defence contractors for the solar industries. They are also looking to secure 15 million dollars in terms of funding by the end of 2021. The company has also been working on developing its first launch vehicle, which is known as Vikram-I and is expected to be launched by December 2021.
- Bellatrix Aerospace
Bellatrix is a space-innovation startup based in Bangalore, founded by Rohan M Ganapati and Yashas Karanam in the year 2015. The company started working on advanced space propulsion systems and rocket propulsion technologies. The company has successfully raised 3 million dollars in 3 series around which was led by IDFC Parampara, StartupxSeed, Karsemven Fund and Survam Partners, which then led to a post-money valuation of 10 million USD. On 8th February of 2020, they announced that they partnered with Skyroot Aerospace to work on joint space missions.
Bellatrix’s lab is in the Indian Institute of Science and the company has signed an MoU with Dhruva space to work on those joint space missions. They are currently working on a space taxi and an orbital transfer vehicle which is supposed to be launched in the year 2024. they are also in the works of launching rocket Chetak by 2023.
- Agnikul Cosmos
Agnikul is a very innovative startup, founded by Srinath Ravichandran and Moin SPM in the year 2017. The startup is based in Chennai and had recently fired the world’s first completely 3D-produced rocket engine as well as a cryogenic rocket engine known as Agnilet. This is the first Indian space startup that has entered into an NDA alongside the department of Space which was established under the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre.
After a few years, they have successfully managed to raise a funding of 23.4 crores which is roughly 3.3 million USD. They have also received an investment from Anand Mahindra (although the amount has not been made public). The main aim of Agnikul is to develop and launch its own small fit launch vehicle named Agnibaan by the year 2022.
- Dhruva Space
This is also a Hyderabad based startup that was founded by Sanjay Nekkanti in the year 2012. The company prioritises working on small satellites for the government as well as the commercial and academic market. Recently they have been working with ISRO and the European space agency and they also managed to raise 5 crores from the Mumbai angels network.
In the year 2014, they signed a deal with AMSAT India. This was done to develop HAMSAT-2 which is an amateur radio satellite. In the year 2020, they also entered into an MoU with Skyroot Aerospace to work on a joint space mission.
How space technology improves our lives
Many people may not realise that the development of space exploration technologies has already benefited our planet in many ways. In terms of advancements in communication alone, for instance, you clearly couldn’t expect to be doing much better. Every single year hundreds of technical innovations are brought in by space programs which pave the path for the betterment of technology in even menial sectors like better home appliances and advancement in farming equipment as well as faster communication which lead to precisely maritime and aerospace technologies which have provided us with the dangers of weather warning.
Not only that but they have also improved medical instruments which help us in everyday life. A small example could be IBM creating a platform that helps farmers increase planting efficiency to maximize crop yield. It worked by using sensors and drones which collected data from all across the fields and gave farmers information that they need – everything from crop health to livestock performance or even details on the soil and the equipment. We can analyse all that data to create on the spot suggestions and recommendations.
Some may consider that only the space programs towards the moon and other planets are necessary because that is what’s considered “cool” but it is becoming increasingly clear among the youth that there are a lot more programs that help us discover more about the planet we already live in.
In conclusion, we’d just like to add that there are a few different aspects for potential collaboration opportunities and increasing the momentum for space-tech growth in the country and expanding India’s share in the global space economy. One of them is by establishing new partnerships between various industries and entrepreneurs. We can also bring in their expertise on bridging the gap between real and virtual worlds by enabling the companies to extend the boundaries of rocket and satellite innovation to make space more accessible.
Space is no longer a dream for India. It’s making the leaps that will define the country’s space adventures over the next decade