Future Space Technologies & Indian Start-Ups

Countries are in race to launch satellites and the numbers are increasing every passing day. The purpose may be for keeping check on weather, monitoring earth landmass, oceans, climate changes, navigating deep space, supporting Government for defense and civilian programs, satellite communications etc.

Advance programs are being conducted jointly by the Government as well as private sectors for achieving the desired objectives. These programs are difficulted to be executed in isolation and requires deep scientific collaboration by various organization working together. Operational challenges are giving opportunity for developing shared infrastructure, which have the potential for multiple scientific applications and allows operational synergies between various partners, working on unique aspect of the programs from geographically dispersed areas.

Recently European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully launched a spacecraft by developing and operationalising the next-generation technology in the area of flight control system known as European Ground System – Common Core(EGS-CC). This is a highly advanced system in the area of controlling the launch and according to ESA, this new age system will be the brain of all European spaceflight operations in the years to come

OPS-SAT, which is a cube satellite, has become the first spacecraft to be monitored and controlled using the EGS-CC. This will be a sort of flying laboratory for testing the systems that have not been possible to test before due to expensive nature of satellites. OPS-SAT Flight was successful and have validated that that this software will be used for more advanced applications in the future.

EGS-CC is considered ground breaking, driven by its features of Common usage and Shared infrastructure. Earlier satellite developers faced the issue of programming each satellite uniquely to achieve the purpose of its launch but EGS-CC flight control capabilities allows the needs for meeting requirements of various launch. It enables seamless collaboration amongst various players and organisations working on different mission for sharing their control functions within the shared infrastructure and facilitate collaboration for complex and bigger projects.

Massive launch of satellites in low earth orbit is creating ever increasing problem of debris in space. Various services can be launched using this platform, which will have different functionality for solving the problem of debris.

According to ESA, The EGS-CC is the latest evolution in Europe’s shared space control system, and will bring a range of benefits for missions of the future and will make European industry competitive in the global market. Airbus Defence and Space, Thales Alenia Space, OHB System are significant private player who participated in development of software, along with various European Government Agencies.

In India, Space is being recognised as a key area of growth and the Union government intends to reforms the space sector by bringing in private players’ participation, Earlier Government released the draft of a new Spacecom Policy 2020 for regulating the commercial use of satellites, orbital slots, and ground stations for communication needs and authorization for setting up new communication satellites and ground stations. Draft policy will increase the competitiveness of Indian players in satellite communication space. We can expect the Government to notify the policy soon. 

In India various Start-ups are attracting investment in this space. Pixxel is one such space technology firm, started in 2019 by Awais Ahamed and Kshitij Khandelwal.  

Skyroot Aerospace ,started by Pawan Kumar Chandana and Naga Bharath Dhaka, is based in Hyderabad. It is India’s first private-owned firm to demonstrate the potential to build a homegrown rocket engine. It is credited for developing small satellite launch vehicles. It has been successful in raising $4.3 million, which includes space and defence contractor solar industries.

Bellatrix Aerospace started by Rohan M Ganapathy and Yashas Karanam is based in Banglore. It makes use of advanced in-space propulsion systems. Over the past few years, it has raised $3 million in a pre-series A Round. This year, it has announced the partnership with Skyroot Aerospace for working on joint space missions. As of now, it is developing a space taxi and an orbital transfer vehicle, which is expected to be launched in 2024.

Agnikul Cosmos started by Srinath Ravichandran and Moin SPM in 2017 is based in Chennai. As of now, it has fired the world’s first 3D rocket and a semi-cryogenic rocket engine named Agnilet.  Dhruva Space is another Hyderabad-based company that began its functioning in 2012. It operates on small satellites for the government, commercial, and academic markets. Currently, the company is working with ISRO and European Space Agency.

In India, Start-ups are working in space technologies, along with the established players like TATA’s, L&T, Godrej. Space is not only important from traditional defense and civilian objectives but is seeing renewed interest globally for applications of defense technologies in the advanced and untouched areas. Some of these firms will potentially create lot of wealth for their investors and some of the firms may be acquired by the large players in times to come. Technological advancement and sophistication will be a key to compete with Global firms. The success of these firms will create a robust ecosystem for space-based firms in India, invite mega investments and will result in futuristic technologies. 

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