By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, Dec 12 (IANS) Space is the next frontier for India’s startups and major industrial groups are attempting to conquer it.
With the BJP government last year announcing to open the sector for private players, many startups have entered this relatively new territory and also have raised sizable funds from venture capitalists.
Interestingly, it is not just the civilian side that the private players are looking at. They are also looking at the defence sector’s space needs.
For instance, the Chennai based Data Patterns (India) Ltd is wanting to build smaller defence satellites.
The space sector trend is to have constellations of small satellites. The trend drives the demand for satellites and sub-systems.
While India’s Bharti Group along with the UK government owns the OneWeb, a low earth orbit (LEO) broadband satellite communications company planning to have a constellation of 650 satellites, a couple of India born satellite companies are having similar aspirations.
For instance, Syzygy Space Technologies Pvt Ltd, commonly known as Pixxel, GalaxEye Space Solutions Pvt Ltd, Grahaa Space and others are into this space.
The Bengaluru based Syzygy Space is planning to have a 30-satellite constellation called Firefly, said Awais Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer, Syzygy Space Technologies.
Syzygy Space’s first satellite weighing about 15 kg was built by a Chennai based company and will be flown by an ISRO’s rocket to the Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
The company is building its second satellite in its Bengaluru facility.
Ahmed said the camera’s Firefly satellite constellation is specially designed by his company which would give a different image not seen before.
The IIT Madras incubated GalaxEye Space is planning to build 15 earth observation satellites each weighing not less than 150 kg.
“We are in the middle of design phase. The first satellite will be ready in Q3 of 2023. Our constellation of satellites will be ready over a period of five years,” Denil Chawda – Co-Founder & CTO, GalaxEye Space told IANS.
“The current global market size for earth observation satellite images is about $3.5-4 billion and expected to grow to about $7.5 billion over the next 10 years,” Pranit Mehta, Vice President, Business Development.
In line with the market trend of going in for small satellites, the rocket makers are also in the process of building suitable rockets.
The two Indian rocket startups that have made good progress are the Chennai based Agnikul Cosmos Private Ltd and the Hyderabad based Skyroot Aerospace Pvt Ltd.
Further the companies are testing their rocket engines.
Agnikul and Skyroot have signed up agreements with the Department of Space to test their rocket systems at various facilities of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
There are several other startups in the space sector whose progress is not much known.
The global space market is about $360 billion and is expected to grow to $1 trillion by 2040.
However, India’s share in the global pie is about two per cent offering good potential for the new players.
Till now, the Indian space sector was a monopoly of ISRO-the country’s space agency and the private participation was in the form of component supplies to the former.
India launched its first communication satellite way back in early 1980s.
The domestic industry would have grown manifold if only the government had allowed the private players and ISRO remained as a research and development (R&D) unit, two industry officials not wanting to be quoted told IANS.
The Indian space industry is still in its infancy and the start-ups can play an important role in the sector, an industry official told IANS.
As a part of opening up the space sector, the Indian government has constituted Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) as an autonomous agency in Department of Space (DOS).
The IN-SPACe will be the regulator for private players in the space sector. It will also enable usage of ISRO’s facilities for them.
According to the Indian government, 24 companies requested for support from IN-SPACe for their space activities in the current financial year.
“Space sector is on its way to becoming a trillion-dollar industry and the role of startups will be crucial in this journey. For startups to succeed, they must either reinvent existing technology to cause a disruption in the existing domain, generate new technologies and ideas into the sector, or use innovative ideas to put existing products or projects to new uses,” S. Somanath, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), ISRO said in a seminar.
On encouraging startups and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the space sector, K. Sivan, Chairman, ISRO and Secretary, Department of Space said the government through the Space Enterprise Encouragement and Development (SEED) scheme will support them to take up innovation, research and product development and services for ISRO.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at email@example.com)