A new wave of space technology start-ups got the much-needed impetus in June 2020, with India allowing private companies to work within the premises of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Private aerospace start-ups can now participate in building and launching rockets and satellites, provide space services commercially, and even participate in planetary explorations.
This decision has caught the attention of investors opening floodgates of funding for fledgling aerospace start-ups in the country, and the race to the top has started. The top five contenders in the race to watch for are coming up with innovations ranging from building palm-sized satellites to those aiming to propel satellites into space using cleaner fuel. Currently based on commercially available services for space missions following five are currently ruling the roost.
This IIT-Madras incubated aerospace start-up signed a non-disclosure agreement with the Department of Space (DOS) on December 3, 2020, that made it the first private company to sign such a pact with the Indian Space Research Organization under the newly proposed Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (In-SPACe), a body that has been set up to enable private players to participate in Indian space research.
The company will collaborate with ISRO to access technical information and facilities necessary to carry on their ongoing research of a launch vehicle. Agnikul Cosmos will also design a rocket, Agnibaan. Agibaan is deisgned to carry up to 100 kg of payload to low Earth orbits up to 700 km mounted with a plug-and-play engine configuration.
This Bengaluru-based space-tech company might have lost one of its first opportunities to hover high in space with its constellation of earth imaging small satellites. Still, it holds great scope for commercializing ground operations like mission support, satellite broadband gateways and 5G backhauling.
Pixxel is one of the first companies to tie-up with ISRO. ISRO was to launch its constellation of small satellites that collected data, to be analysed using AI and ML mode to help organizations across sectors, on board the PSLV-C51launched on February 28, 2021. The company missed the opportunity due to some nags, but that doesn’t write it off the Indian Space-tech avenue; rather the failure is supposed to induce new zeal within the team in the future.
This Indian aerospace start-up is viewed as one of the strong contenders that can compete globally with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, by providing a solution to connectivity issues through technology to facilitate the beaming of high bandwidth internet from space. Astrome is working towards making the cost of internet access through satellites affordable.
The firm is all set to explore technologies to function at lower orbits. It is gradually moving up the value chain by deploying its wireless backhaul products in terrestrial, followed by early trials of its space products.
This Bengaluru-based aerospace start-up raised around $3 million from a group of investors in 2019 making it one of the frontrunners in the sector in terms of funding. Venture capital fund IDFC Parampara lead Bellatrix’s pre-Series A round, with Suman Kant Munjal from the Hero MotoCorp family and Bollywood Star Deepika Padukone being two of the other seven investors in this start-up.
Bellatrix is focused on designing a satellite that would use electric and less harmful chemicals thrusters to propel through space in the geostationary orbit. It is designing next-gen rockets and related support systems, which will boost the space missions that will be profitable for various industries.
The Mumbai-based space tech start-up raised an undisclosed amount from Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma in a Pre-Series A funding round in 2019. Founded by Kris Nair and Bala M, this start-up is venturing into the building and operating infrastructure in space on behalf of enterprises and corporates.
It specializes in designing earth observation satellites to solve customers’ problems in the financial services, government departments, strategic risk management, and agriculture by predicting weather and climatic phenomenon and improving satellite-based imaging. This start-up has also won a contract to build more than 27 satellites for the Indian government.