India's emerging private space sector

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Bellatrix Aerospace is a research and development company developing orbital launch vehicles (rockets) and electric propulsion systems for satellites. Today, the space industry plays an indispensable role in our lives. Our mobile phones, TVs, office computers and the internet are all dependent on satellites. Yet, humans have explored only a small chunk of space. Space offers infinite possibilities for a lot of market sectors.

The biggest barrier to open the doors of space for improving life on Earth is the fact that the cost of access to space is exorbitantly high. We are a technology based company and we believe that a revolution in the space technology is what it takes to change the world we live in. In the field of satellite propulsion, Bellatrix offers to reduce satellite mission cost through its patented electric propulsion systems. Bellatrix is dedicated to offer its customershigh reliability, short wait periods and competitive costs.

GARUDA



Garuda is an affordable launch vehicle under development at Bellatrix Aerospace. It falls in the medium lift category. It's a two stage rocket designed for complete re-use. It will feature a revolution in the field of rocket engineering by incorporating several innovations such as a next generation propulsion system and ingenious stage recovery mechanisms. Garuda will employ carbon composites in more than 80% of its construction.

Garuda, for the first time, will feature a unique thermodynamic cycle for its first stage engine. This engine called Kalam, will feature combustion tap-off cycle, i.e. it uses a pump-fed engine design with a tap-off cycle to take small amount of combustion gases from main combustion chamber to power the engine turbopumps. This produces high impulse and is much simpler than pre-burning staged combustion because of its single combustion chamber and graceful shut down mode. This engine is designed to generate 800kN thrust in vacuum.

The second stage of Garuda will use a single Aeon engine. This stage is designed for multiple restart capability. The Aeon engine will feature turbo-pumps driven by Brushless DC motors powered by advanced batteries. This will eliminate the need for complex turbo-machinery and highly complex plumbing. This engine is designed to generate 41kN thrust in vacuum.

http://bellatrixaerospace.com/garuda.html

CHETAK


With advances in technology, nano-satellites are becoming more and more capable. Bellatrixoffers a simple and reliable dedicated nano-satellite launch vehicle with an aim to make nano-satellite launches more affordable than ever before. Chetak is a two stage vehicle, where the first stage is designed for reuse. Both the stages of Chetak will use liquid methane as fuel. Chetak features an all-carbon composite construction.

The first stage of Chetak will use a four Aeon engines each capable of generating 41kN of thrust, giving a total thrust of 164kN. This stage is designed for multiple restart capability. The Aeon engine will feature turbo-pumps driven by Brushless DC motors power by advanced batteries. This will eliminate the need for complex turbo-machinery and plumbing.

The second stage of Chetak will use a single Aeon engine. This stage is optimized for vacuum operation at a down rated 21kN thrust. Tis stage is also designed for multiple restart capability.

http://bellatrixaerospace.com/chetak.html

...They are into electric satellite-propulsion as well. Check out their website -http://bellatrixaerospace.com/index.html
 
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Garuda is an affordable launch vehicle under development at Bellatrix Aerospace. It falls in the medium lift category. It's a two stage rocket designed for complete re-use. It will feature a revolution in the field of rocket engineering by incorporating several innovations such as a next generation propulsion system and ingenious stage recovery mechanisms. Garuda will employ carbon composites in more than 80% of its construction.
PAYLOAD
1010kg to 700km Sun Synchronous Orbit

Designed to take multiple satellites to their dedicated orbits
Simple to integrate the payload

Payload Fairing Height 4m
Payload Fairing Diameter 3m
FIRST STAGE
Garuda, for the first time, will feature a unique thermodynamic cycle for its first stage engine. This engine called Kalam, will feature combustion tap-off cycle, i.e. it uses a pump-fed engine design with a tap-off cycle to take small amount of combustion gases from main combustion chamber to power the engine turbopumps. This produces high impulse and is much simpler than pre-burning staged combustion because of its single combustion chamber and graceful shut down mode. This engine is designed to generate 800kN thrust in vacuum.
SECOND STAGE
The second stage of Garuda will use a single Aeon engine. This stage is designed for multiple restart capability. The Aeon engine will feature turbo-pumps driven by Brushless DC motors powered by advanced batteries. This will eliminate the need for complex turbo-machinery and highly complex plumbing. This engine is designed to generate 41kN thrust in vacuum.








PAYLOAD

1010kg
TO 700KM SSO

MASS

43,000kg
HEIGHT

27m
DIAMETER

1.9m
FIRST STAGE

800kN
SEA LEVEL THRUST

SECOND STAGE

41kN
VACUUM THRUST

PAYLOAD FAIRING

4M
HEIGHT

PAYLOAD FAIRING

3m
DIAMETER

PRICE

5.4m
USD
FUEL
Both the stages of Garuda will use Liquid Methane and Liquid Oxygen as its propellants. These are clean burning fuels. Clean burning do not produce carbon compounds (coking), making it easier for reuse. This propellant combination also provides high specific impulse. Many rocket engines employ helium pressurization system is extremely complex and carries certain risk.
CAPABILITIES
Garuda is designed to launch payloads in sun synchronous orbits and inclined orbits. The vehicle is capable of launching remote sensing satellites into polar sun synchronous orbits and small communication satellites to GTO. It is designed to be capable of launching multiple satellites in the same launch mission and placing satellites in equatorial, inclined as well as polar orbits.
AVIONICS
The avionics are responsible for control and monitoring of the engines, launch sequencing, trajectory planning, guidance, navigation and control from the beginning of the countdown all the way to orbit. To shrink our development time and costs, we use distributed computing architecture with a focus on common hardware and modularity across each rocket stage and function.
 
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Today, satellites have become an indispensable part of our everyday life. Our mobile phones, TV sets, offices, the internet and smart devices cannot work without satellites. Bellatrix Aerospace is a key supplier of electric propulsion systems for satellites. These thrusters mark a revolution in the field of nano and micro satellite propulsion as the power requirement for these thrusters is relatively low. Electric Propulsion Systems are the prime mover for affordable access to space.
SATELLITE PROPULSION
All satellites need a means of moving through space, and their usual way of travelling resembles that of skaters: a short push and a long glide. All satellites move along orbits, as they revolve around a celestial body. Once rocket take satellites to their parking orbits, the satellites need to find their way to their nominal orbit. It needs to overcome gravitational pulls and keep itself in the orbit. It also needs to maintain its orientation as required by its function. To do this, the satellite needs its own propulsion system.
ELECTRIC PROPULSION
Traditionally chemical propulsion systems were used for satellite propulsion. Now, electric propulsion (EP) systems have evolved and are revolutionizing the satellite industry. An electrically powered spacecraft propulsion system uses electrical energy to change the velocity of a spacecraft. Most of these kinds of spacecraft propulsion systems work by electrically expelling propellant at high speed. Electric thrusters typically use much less propellant than chemical rockets because they have a higher exhaust speed (operate at a higher specific impulse) than chemical rockets.
ADVANTAGES OF ELECTRIC PROPULSION
Electric propulsion offers several advantages. Electric Propulsion is safe and these engines are more efficient than chemical ones, in the sense that they require much less propellant to produce the same overall effect, i.e. a particular increase in spacecraft velocity. The propellant is ejected up to twenty times faster than from classical thrusters and therefore the same propelling force is obtained with twenty times less propellant. Electric propulsion can produce force for a very long time as compared to chemical propulsion.
MICROWAVE ELECTROTHERMAL THRUSTER
Bellatrix Aerospace has developed and patented Microwave Electro-thermal Thrusters (MET), an advanced type of electric propulsion for satellites. This is an efficient electric propulsion system and has an unique distinction of being able to efficiently work on several propellants such as Argon, Xenon, Nitrogen, Ammonia and Water Vapour. MET is an electrode less (zero erosion), vortex stabilized thruster where microwaves are used to heat the propellant and produce a high temperature exhaust for in-space propulsion.

METs offer the following advantages over other types of propulsion units.
  • It offers 10 times more specific impulse than chemical thrusters
  • It offers multiple restart capability
  • A satellite weighing 6 tons with the use of chemical thrusters would weigh 4 tons when MET system is adopted for the same satellite.
  • Satellites which use MET offer more space for useful payload instead of wasteful propellant
  • It is safe (no static charge buildup and no interference) and highly reliable.
  • It is designed to increase the orbital life span of satellites by 5 years. Reduction in volume adds to reduced mission cost.
PROPULSION FOR NANO SATELLITES
The miniaturization of electronics has allowed nano-satellites to bridge the gap in function and capability as compared to their larger satellite counterparts. To avail full functionality, nano-satellites must operate in groups called constellations. The main reason attributed to the gap in functionality is all down to the propulsion systems powering the craft. Their extremely small size requires new innovations in propulsion which is mainly due to the low systems payload carried by the craft. At the present scenario, the lack of innovation in propulsion systems only adds to spiralling costs and decrease in capability as crafts in Low Earth Orbit require periodic corrections in altitude and orbital switching. These shortcoming has resulted in nano-satellites with a full mission cycle of only 2 years before being redundant. This results in frequent launches that only add to the huge costs. At Bellatrix Aerospace, Innovation in R&D of electric propulsion units have enabled us to address the above shortcomings and extend the actual life of nano-satellites 3 times as compared to the present technology using our thrusters. This will allow manufacturers and companies to set up nano-satellite constellations that will provide full capability to their organizations and allow more science to be undertaken while dramatically reducing the costs in operations and maintenance of the satellite constellations. Electric Propulsion is the future!
Testing of MET thruster
HALL EFFECT THRUSTERS
Hall Effect Thruster or Stationary Plasma Thruster (SPT) is a type of advanced ion propulsion system. They work by trapping electrons in a magnetic field and then use the electrons to ionize propellant, efficiently accelerate the ions to produce thrust. At Bellatrix SPT's with 40mN and 90mN thrust output is under development. The developmental process is expected to be completed in second half of 2018.
MAGNETO PLASMA DYANMIC THRUSTER
Magnetoplasmadynamic Thruster (MPDT's) or Lorentz Force Accelerators (LFA) is an advanced type of electric propulsion system, capable of generating high thrust(~200N) with very high specific impulses (>20,000 seconds). Presently they are unrealistic to be operated in space owing to its requirement of power in the range of 50-200MW. This type of thruster, however has the potential for efficient interplanetary exploration in the future when such power is made available in Space. Bellatrix is independently carrying out R&D on MPDT's since June 2013 to understand its physics and operationalise it in the future.
 
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OUR ROCKET: AGNIBAAN
A launch vehicle capable of carrying up to 100 kg of payload, to low Earth orbits up to 700 km with a plug-and-play engine configuration for an air launch vehicle.
A 2 stage LOX/Kerosene vehicle with a third "baby stage"

A 2 stage LOX/Kerosene vehicle optimized structurally for air launches
 
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7 identical engines in the first stage
MANUFACTURED ADDITIVELY

Each engine carries a 3d printed regenerative cooling system and an injector designed to mix fuel and oxygen to maximize efficiency.
 
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SKYROOT Aerospace
VIKRAM SERIES
Vikram, named after Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the father of Indian Space Program, is a series of launch vehicles especially crafted for the small satellite market. Built on common architecture and covering a wide range of payloads, they offer the most affordable and on demand ride to space.
Launch Vehicles

VIKRAM I
VIKRAM II
VIKRAM III

PAYLOAD
200 kg to 500 km SSPO.
280 kg to 45º inclination 500 km LEO .

ARCHITECTURE
Highly reliable solid propulsion stages with proven design heritage.
Miniaturized and Modern Avionics.
Ultra-Lowshock Pneumatic separation.

FLEXIBLE
Orbital Adjustment Module with re-start capability enables multi-orbit insertions.

ECONOMIC
Lowest cost in the payload segment

RESPONSIVE
Requires Minimal range infrastructure. Can be assembled and launched within 24 hours from any launch site.
 
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Mumbai-based Kawa Space, which designs and operates earth observation satellites, has closed a seed round of an undisclosed amount. (Image for representational purposes only)(PTI)
India's space startups ignite investor interest
  • A new wave of space technology startups are mushrooming in India, catching the attention of investors keen to join the space race
  • Bengaluru-based Bellatrix Aerospace has raised $3 million from a group of investors and its first customer is ISRO
Mumbai: From companies building palm-sized satellites to those aiming to propel satellites into space using cleaner fuels, a new wave of space technology startups are mushrooming in India, catching the attention of investors keen to join the space race.
Bengaluru-based Bellatrix Aerospace, which wants to propel satellites into orbit using electric and non-toxic chemical thrusters, has raised $3 million from a group of investors, co-founder Yashas Karanam told Reuters.
Venture capital fund IDFC Parampara is leading Bellatrix's pre-Series A round. The family office of Suman Kant Munjal, who belongs to the billionaire family that controls Indian motorcycle maker Hero MotoCorp, and Deepika Padukone, one of Bollywood's biggest stars, are two of the other seven investors.
Meanwhile, Mumbai-based Kawa Space, which designs and operates earth observation satellites, has closed a seed round of an undisclosed amount, one of its investors, Vishesh Rajaram, managing partner at Speciale Invest, told Reuters.
Bellatrix and Kawa are two of over a dozen Indian startups developing satellites, rockets and related support systems which can power space missions serving a range of industries.
Their fundraising represents a big leap in private space investments in India, a leading space power but where the government has enjoyed a near-monopoly for decades.
"No venture capital firm which does tech investments in India has invested an amount of this size in space technology before," said Narayan Prasad, co-founder of online space products marketplace Satsearch, referring to Bellatrix's funding.
Besides Bellatrix and Kawa, seven space technology companies in India are funded, according to startup data tracker Tracxn and interviews with investors.
Space technology is red hot thanks partly to activity happening 2,000 km (1,200 miles) above the earth in the low-earth orbit, much closer and easier to reach than the geostationary orbit where many communications satellites operate.
Here, small and cheaper satellites are snapping images used in everything from crop-monitoring and geology to defence and urban planning, bringing down costs and increasing the frequency of images.
'EXCITING TIMES'
In the past five years, some two dozen Indian startups have grown into unicorns - companies with over $1 billion valuations - most betting on India's growing middle-class and the consumer boom at home.
India's space technology firms are part of a new breed of startups, and investors are paying attention, given the surging global interest in everything from space exploration to space vacations.
Satellite launches planned in the coming years worldwide give investors confidence in such companies, said Bellatrix investor Jatin Desai, whose Parampara Capital collaborated with lender IDFC to form IDFC Parampara.
"That gives us a large addressable potential market," Desai said.
Over 17,000 small satellites could be launched between 2018 and 2030, consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimates.
"There is money to be made ... These are exciting times for lots of entrepreneurs," said Rajaram, whose Speciale Invest has bet on three space startups in India.
LONG GESTATION PERIOD
To be sure, investors aren't opening the coffers for India's space startups in large numbers just yet.
Indian venture capital firms Maple Capital, Ideaspring Capital, Bharat Innovation Fund and 3one4 Capital, say they have held talks with space startups but are taking a wait-and-watch approach.
"The gestation period is long by the time you see returns," said Naganand Doraswamy, managing partner at Ideaspring, referring to the multiple stages of development, testing and government approvals involved in space missions.
The state-run Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), currently preparing for its second lunar mission, has a monopoly on launching rockets in India.
Still, Indian firms are free to use ISRO's rockets or overseas launch services such as Elon Musk's SpaceX or New Zealand and Los Angeles-based Rocket Lab to send satellites to space.
Most Indian space startups are hopeful that parliament will pass a long-pending space law, which will give clarity on how private companies can operate in the sector.
The administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought suggestions from stakeholders for a draft Space Activities Bill, which it has said could "possibly" be introduced in parliament this year.
Bellatrix Aerospace's first customer is ISRO, which is also mentoring the company as it readies a water-based propellant to help manoeuvre satellites in space.
Bellatrix is not the only company racing to develop newer satellite propulsion systems, with at least three others overseas reportedly working on similar products.
The company says its systems are affordable, less toxic and much lighter, providing more room for payload on satellites. "This will be the future," co-founder Karanam said.
 
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Water could propel future Indian satellites
An Indian start-up foraying into space technology is coming up with a propulsion system for satellites known as Microwave Thruster, designed to run on water as fuel medium. The promising technology has zero erosion characteristics, thus increasing the on-orbit lifespan required for a propulsion system.
Plasma with water as propellent (Middle) - Electric Thruster
An Indian start-up foraying into space technology is coming up with a propulsion system for satellites known as Microwave Thruster, designed to run on water as fuel medium. The promising technology has zero erosion characteristics, thus increasing the on-orbit lifespan required for a propulsion system.
"Microwave Thruster produces more thrust per kilowatt of power consumed, compared to most other type of electric propulsion," claimed Yashas Karanam, Director and Chief Operating Officer of Bangalore-based Bellatrix Aerospace.
Bellatrix is the recipient of the prestigious Technology Development Board National Award – 2017 for its innovative satellite propulsion design, for which it holds a patent.
"Electric propulsion is different field that offers up to 10 times higher specific impulse than chemical propulsion systems for the same amount of fuel. An electrically powered spacecraft propulsion system uses electrical energy to change the velocity of a spacecraft," Yashas told Indian Science Journal. "Using electric propulsion instead of chemical propulsion, manufacturers can reduce the overall satellite mass or otherwise accommodate up to four times more payload with the same satellite mass."
Satellite manufacturers have to pay huge launch costs to take their satellites to space, partially because rockets are expendable in nature. But electric propulsion would bring down the overall cost of satellite mission, said Yashas. However, there are only very few players worldwide working on electric propulsion, he added.
Yashas said, conventional chemical propulsion is not an attractive option for interplanetary missions, because there are no refuelling stations to refill the propellant. For future missions to Moon or Mars missions, electric propulsion is the only road to go.
In a satellite using chemical propulsion, fuel constitutes majority of the satellite mass, thus leaving very little space for useful payload. Most of this fuel is used for orbit raising, i.e., to take the satellite from the parking orbit where the rocket leaves it, to the dedicated orbit of the satellite. For example, communication satellites work in geostationary order of 36,000 kms.
All these factors were the motivation for Yashas and his colleagues to venture into the area of electric propulsion. They are now working to see that electric propulsion systems replace most of the chemical propulsion systems by 2025.

Electric Thruster
Electric propulsion is not a new concept. Work in this area had started in the mid 20th century. Russia has pioneered in Hall Effect Thruster Technology and USA in Gridded Ion Thruster Technology. There are many universities and research institutes across the world working on different types of electric propulsion technology.
The main constraint that has restricted electric propulsion from use in spacecraft was the power availability on spacecraft. Higher power availability can enable the use of high power thrusters for orbit raising. In previous generation spacecraft where power available for propulsion was low, only small electric thrusters with lower thrust output could be used. This would make orbit raising time to go over a year. Since power available now for propulsion systems is higher, satellites can use high power thrusters capable of delivering more thrust. This makes it possible for satellites to reach their orbit in four months, thus making electric propulsion a good choice for satellite propulsion.
With the advances in solar panel technology, solar panels today have achieved great efficiencies and can generate significantly higher power on satellites. Also, power consumption of various satellite sub-systems has reduced due to advances in electronics. This has provided more scope for electric propulsion.
Several starts-up in India have entered the field of space technology, to compliment the pivotal role of state-run Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO. But "ISRO has been very supportive to us in our journey as a mentor," said Rohan M. Ganapthy, CEO of Bellatrix.
With ISRO privatizing its satellite manufacturing and also the PSLV launch vehicle, it offers a big opportunity for private players to look at space business. Several start-ups are now working on many areas like satellite manufacturing, satellite internet services, satellite data analytics, etc. "All these companies, with support from ISRO are together contributing towards building a better space ecosystem in India," added Rohan.
As of today, there is no institutional regulatory mechanism India for private launch service providers. Since ISRO has started pushing the privatization of PSLV and also satellite manufacturing, it is expected that India will soon have a policy framework for participation of private players in satellite manufacturing and launch industry, said Rohan.
Yashas, Rohan and their young team are now looking to provide an economical alternative by developing its own small satellite launch vehicles. Named 'Chetak', the two-staged, reusable rocket can launch smaller satellites up to low-earth orbit at a fraction of the cost. Besides, they are also working on different types of thrusters - Hall Effect Thrusters (electric propulsion), Nano Thrusters (dedicated propulsion system for nano satellites), Green Monopropellant Thrusters (chemical propulsion, effective alternative to carcinogenic hydrazine monopropellant thrusters).
 

Indrajit

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Bellatrix Aerospace is a research and development company developing orbital launch vehicles (rockets) and electric propulsion systems for satellites. Today, the space industry plays an indispensable role in our lives. Our mobile phones, TVs, office computers and the internet are all dependent on satellites. Yet, humans have explored only a small chunk of space. Space offers infinite possibilities for a lot of market sectors.

The biggest barrier to open the doors of space for improving life on Earth is the fact that the cost of access to space is exorbitantly high. We are a technology based company and we believe that a revolution in the space technology is what it takes to change the world we live in. In the field of satellite propulsion, Bellatrix offers to reduce satellite mission cost through its patented electric propulsion systems. Bellatrix is dedicated to offer its customershigh reliability, short wait periods and competitive costs.

GARUDA



Garuda is an affordable launch vehicle under development at Bellatrix Aerospace. It falls in the medium lift category. It's a two stage rocket designed for complete re-use. It will feature a revolution in the field of rocket engineering by incorporating several innovations such as a next generation propulsion system and ingenious stage recovery mechanisms. Garuda will employ carbon composites in more than 80% of its construction.

Garuda, for the first time, will feature a unique thermodynamic cycle for its first stage engine. This engine called Kalam, will feature combustion tap-off cycle, i.e. it uses a pump-fed engine design with a tap-off cycle to take small amount of combustion gases from main combustion chamber to power the engine turbopumps. This produces high impulse and is much simpler than pre-burning staged combustion because of its single combustion chamber and graceful shut down mode. This engine is designed to generate 800kN thrust in vacuum.

The second stage of Garuda will use a single Aeon engine. This stage is designed for multiple restart capability. The Aeon engine will feature turbo-pumps driven by Brushless DC motors powered by advanced batteries. This will eliminate the need for complex turbo-machinery and highly complex plumbing. This engine is designed to generate 41kN thrust in vacuum.

http://bellatrixaerospace.com/garuda.html

CHETAK


With advances in technology, nano-satellites are becoming more and more capable. Bellatrixoffers a simple and reliable dedicated nano-satellite launch vehicle with an aim to make nano-satellite launches more affordable than ever before. Chetak is a two stage vehicle, where the first stage is designed for reuse. Both the stages of Chetak will use liquid methane as fuel. Chetak features an all-carbon composite construction.

The first stage of Chetak will use a four Aeon engines each capable of generating 41kN of thrust, giving a total thrust of 164kN. This stage is designed for multiple restart capability. The Aeon engine will feature turbo-pumps driven by Brushless DC motors power by advanced batteries. This will eliminate the need for complex turbo-machinery and plumbing.

The second stage of Chetak will use a single Aeon engine. This stage is optimized for vacuum operation at a down rated 21kN thrust. Tis stage is also designed for multiple restart capability.

http://bellatrixaerospace.com/chetak.html

...They are into electric satellite-propulsion as well. Check out their website -http://bellatrixaerospace.com/index.html
Bellatrix?? Harry Potter fan?:biggrin2:

 
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Space no bar
MOON MISSION- 1. Ramnath Babu, 2. Sridhar Ramasubban, 3. Sheelika Ravishankar, 4. Dhruv Batra, 5. Rahul Narayan, 6. Vivek Raghavan/ TEAM INDUS: A frontrunner for Google Lunar XPRIZE—global competition between privately funded teams to land a spacecraft on the moon by December 2017 | Imaging: Deni Lal; Photos: Bhanu Prakash Chandra

India’s young space entrepreneurs are charting new paths in the sector
“Our current strength is around 16,000 people, which is not enough to achieve the throughput we have aimed at. We need the help of industry players to achieve our goals.” - S. Kiran Kumar, ISRO chairman
The offices of Bellatrix Aerospace in Bengaluru may seem unassuming, especially when you are told that six young engineers here developed a water-powered, electric propulsion system for satellites. Indian Space Research Organisation has given the company a developmental order for this system. Bellatrix is also working with Hindusthan Institute of Technology, Coimbatore, to develop a micro-satellite that will be in orbit in the near future.
CEO Rohan Ganapathy, 25, says it all began the day he met Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, in the US in 2011: “I was still in college in Coimbatore, when I got an opportunity to attend a seminar organised by NASA. Aldrin told me that that there is huge scope in space exploration and technology, as a large part of space is still unexplored. Though I was always interested in space sciences, that day fixed my goal. I knew I had to do something unique in this field.”
Ganapathy says his second wave of inspiration also came from the US. When private firm SpaceX built its own rockets, he felt it could be done in India, too. “I knew that space projects are long term, require immense dedication, patience and, more than anything else, huge funds,” he said. Among his earliest mentors he counts Sajjan Jindal, chairman, JSW Group, Dr P.S. Goel, former director, ISRO Satellite Centre, Bengaluru, and Dr Ugur Guven, a renowned aerospace and nuclear engineer.
Propulsion systems help satellites reach and maintain orbit. “Most of the current satellites today use chemical propulsion systems, in which fuel constitutes the major part of satellite mass,” Ganapathy said. “Since combustion of fuel is involved, these thrusters carry significant risk. On the other hand, electric propulsion systems consume less fuel, are far more efficient and cost effective. Using an electric propulsion system, the same satellite can carry three times the payload.”
Ganapathy has literally burnt his hands while testing propulsion systems. “I had to undergo plastic surgery and was out of action for many months,” he said. “Such things keep happening, but one has to achieve the goal eventually.” In another three years, the Bellatrix propulsion system will be part of ISRO’s satellite system. Work is on at Bellatrix’s testing facility in Coimbatore and R&D centre in Bengaluru.
TEST THE THUNDER: Rajaguru Nathan aims to develop aerospace testing and teaching equipment in India/ AEOLUS AERO TECH- First private company in India with permission to access the International Space Station for microgravity research | Bhanu Prakash Chandra
The company is experimenting with electric propulsion systems to extend the life of nano-satellites by almost three times. If this works out, manufacturers could set up nano-satellite constellations, slashing the cost of operations and maintenance. “One of our long-term goals has also been to develop reusable launch vehicles dedicated to micro- and nano-satellites,” said Ganapathy.
The space has truly bitten a tribe of the Indian techie. Many of these highly motivated engineers are quitting jobs at reputed MNCs to start companies in space exploration. An example would be Rajaguru K. Nathan, 33, who hails from a farming family in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu. After topping the district in school and college, Nathan moved to Chennai, where he did an M.Tech in aerospace engineering from the Madras Institute of Technology. Then on to Bengaluru, where he worked as an aerodynamist at General Electric’s John F. Welch Technology Centre for four years. Then, he launched his baby, Aeolus Aero Tech.
“I am a first generation entrepreneur,” Nathan said. “My father Krishnaswamy was a farmer and did not get an opportunity to study. But, he always encouraged me to do something new. I lost him in 2010, but his encouragement is always there with me.”
Aeolus Aero Tech is the first private company in India with permission to access the International Space Station for microgravity research. The company is aiming to develop aerospace testing and teaching equipment in India, and also techniques to do space-based microgravity research. “Our main revenue comes from testing equipment supplies. We are the first Indian company to be selected for a US-based space business accelerator programme,” said Nathan.
The company is also technical partner of Abdul Kalam Educational satellite, aka AK Edusat, India’s first student communication satellite. The store-and-forward satellite is funded by NGOs and supported by retired ISRO scientists. The satellite will receive course material from ground stations and beam it to digital libraries nationwide.
IGNITE MODE: Divyanshu Poddar talking to schoolchildren./ ROCKETEERS INDIA- Trains school and college students in the basics of rocket sciences.
“Broadly, the satellite will link digital libraries, women empowerment centres, youth empowerment centres, and telemedicine centres,” Nathan said. “Nationwide, ten teams have been selected to work on the satellite; eight engineering colleges and two schools. Our business development resources proposal will be submitted to ISRO this month for review. Retired ISRO scientist Dr Krishnaswamy is heading this project.”
Nathan said his dream is to trigger curiosity about space among schoolchildren countrywide. “Experiment, experience and build expertise is our concept,” he said. “We are currently supplying aerospace testing equipment to academics and research labs. We have helped establish more than 150 aeronautical labs all over India.” The company now supplies lab equipment for the following sectors: aerodynamics, propulsion, structures, space communication, satellite makers, flight demonstration and drones. Nathan said the company’s product line can help schools and colleges build their own satellites.
Aeolus Aero Tech is more than an office to Nathan, whose wife Lalitha, is the co-founder of the company. Like her husband, Lalitha, too, quit a promising IT career to bet on space. The postgraduate in mechatronics was employed with Cognizant Technologies earlier.
Family support has been crucial for many of these entrepreneurs. Divyanshu Poddar, 27, founded Rocketeers India with his own money and a little help from his family. The Bengaluru-based company trains school and college students who want to excel in rocket sciences. Teaching aids range from medium rocket models to technology-enabled platforms.
WATER IS FIRE: (Clockwise from bottom) Saurabh Nerkar (in pink), Rajesh N., Yashas Karnam, Vivek M., Roshan M., Saagar M. and Arun R./ BELLATRIX AEROSPACE- ISRO is interested in their water-powered, electric propulsion system for satellites.
Poddar said the private players in space research are looking for talent with basic skills in the field. “Our courses help students have a first hand experience in rocket sciences through rocket models and systems. We have developed working models for schools and colleges,” Poddar said. Rocketeers has also developed reusable sounding rockets.
Poddar, who hails from a Marwari business family in Ludhiana, Punjab, did his schooling at The Scindia School, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. He did his higher secondary in Delhi and cracked the entrance exam to the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram. “This was a government-run institute, and the majority students are absorbed by ISRO,” Poddar said. But, he opted not and set off down the entrepreneurial trail.
“We have been completely bootstrapped up till now and are currently going through the process of raising our first angel round of funding,” he said. “Initially, the money that my parents had saved for my education was put into this venture, as IIST provided me with free education. I knew money will start flowing in sooner or later. My company was able to sustain itself ever since its inception, though I have not done any kind of marketing. We generated good revenue using our educational programmes and put that also in the development of our venture.”
Currently, former ISRO scientists are helping the company understand new technologies in space sciences and incorporate them into their training programmes. In two years, the company has worked with about 10 colleges and 40 schools. It has taught about 45,000 students, with around 5,000 of them going through complete workshops and flying more than 12,000 model rockets in total. “Our model rockets are powered using solid black powder fuel. We are the only ones in India doing this on a structured level,” claimed Poddar.
The company has acclaimed mentors handling its programmes. For example, the quality for space is mentored by Dr B.N. Suresh, a retired ISRO scientist, space law and policy by Dr Ranjana Kaul, Rocketeers Fellowship by Dr K. Kurien Isaac, senior professor, IIST, and so on. At the same time it is also imparting executive and entrepreneurship courses in collaboration with IIST, and skilling and training programmes with other companies like Bellatrix Aerospace.
The dynamism of space entrepreneurs can be seen in their variety of applications. For example, Bengaluru-based SatSure is a satellite data analytics company supporting financial services in the agricultural sector. Co-founded by serial entrepreneur Abhishek Raju and four other technocrats, SatSure uses artificial intelligence and image processing algorithms to interpret historical and current satellite imagery. Checked against other data sets like weather, the interpretation provides accurate crop yield estimates, crop yield risk and crop pricing risk.
“Our advanced analytics can be used by crop insurers and re-insurers for claim settlements and setting risk premiums,” Raju said. The same solution, he said, can be used by banks for creating farmer credit risk ratings, and by traders for hedging financial risks.
After starting off SatSure, Raju moved to Dhruva Space in Bengaluru, founded by Narayan Prasad, 30. The space bug bit Prasad after he graduated in mechanical engineering from Jain University, Bengaluru. So, in 2012, he founded Dhruva Space. An Erasmus Mundus SpaceMaster graduate and an EGIDE scholar, he holds multiple postgraduate degrees—space technology (Sweden), space techniques and instrumentation, (France), and space and telecom laws (NALSAR Law University, Hyderabad). He had also worked on different projects at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics and the DLR Institute of Space Systems, Germany.
Prasad said the encouragement from his parents, who were Central government employees, was crucial. “They know that all space projects are long term.... They supported me fully despite money not coming in immediately. I am happy they understood my passion for space sciences,” Prasad said.
Before Dhruva Space, Prasad had co-founded Sat Search, a search engine that indexes all products and services within the space industry. “Currently the entire space industry is compartmentalised and each ecosystem seems to self-serve its needs. For instance, the European industry is rallying around limited space agencies. Similarly, industry ecosystems such as the one in India or Russia act similarly, self-serving needs within the national priorities.” He said Sat Search was set up to help small and medium businesses and startups reach far markets.
“There are 500 small and medium companies in the space supply chain of India, and hardly any of these vendors who supply within the Indian space ecosystem are known in the international fora,” he said. “Our platform will try to bring these vendors on to a globalised platform.”
TeamIndus is one of the frontrunners for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a global competition between privately funded teams to land a spacecraft on the moon by December 2017. The Bengaluru-based startup is one of the five teams left in the race. TeamIndus began in Noida, and later shifted to Bengaluru.
At the Bengaluru office, THE WEEK met Nirmal Gadde, 26, who after graduating from IIT Kharagpur in aerospace engineering joined TeamIndus and worked without salary for months together. “I wanted something like this to happen from India,” Gadde said. “I thought that I should be part of this mission and cannot miss it. Hence, it was not the money but sheer passion that drew me to this company.” Gadde, who hails from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, is designated Jedi Trooper at TeamIndus.
Dhruv Batra had started many companies and had worked in different industry verticals prior to joining TeamIndus. “Even as a child, I was fascinated with stars and the moon,” said Batra, who is designated Jedi Master Program. “I was hooked to Star Trek! Space always attracted me. When [TeamIndus founder] Rahul Narayan asked me to join the board, I jumped at the opportunity. I told my wife that initially I will have to work without any remuneration, as it was a startup. She supported my move fully.”
Batra says the TeamIndus moon rover has gone through a lot of testing for various parameters, one being the ability to withstand the launch turbulence of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, the ISRO’s workhorse. “Then there are other aspects such as the technology which will help the rover take to intelligent corrective measures when it lands on the moon,” he said. “We have received immense support from Ratan Tata, Nandan Nilekani and former ISRO chairman K. Kasturirangan, in their individual capacities.”
ISRO chairman S. Kiran Kumar was all for private players in the space industry. “Our current strength is around 16,000 people, which is not enough to achieve the throughput we have aimed at,” he said. “We need the help of industry players to achieve our goals. We are open to startups and smaller companies that meet our requirements. An example would be Bellatrix.”
He said around 80 per cent of the development work on launch vehicles had been outsourced. “All the activities that are outsourced are supervised by us. Different types of work are taken by private players, including finishing, fabricating and developing castings for motors. Every satellite is different and ISRO gives specific requirements to private players, if some development requirement is needed for a satellite.”
Kumar said Chandrayaan II, which is scheduled for launch in early 2018, had many sub-systems developed by private players. The chairman’s dream is one launch every month, and he is banking on India’s new tribe of space entrepreneurs.
 
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Ready for take-off
India needs to empower its startups to claim a bigger share of global space market
Sky is no limit: Rakesh Sasibhushan, Antrix’s chairman and managing director, says a clearer regulatory framework is needed to ensure growth | Bhanu Prakash Chandra
The headquarters of Antrix Corporation Ltd in Bengaluru is impressively lush. Tall trees surround the circular building, and the canopy of green makes for a lovely view from the huge office of Rakesh Sasibhushan, Antrix’s chairman and managing director. The premises are not heavily guarded, unlike the nearby headquarters of Antrix’s parent company, the Indian Space Research Organisation. “We need to make it easily accessible for businesses and people, as we are [ISRO’s] commercial arm,” says Sasibhushan. “We aim to do business and get customers.”
Antrix has 84 clients in the communications field, including Airtel DTH, Tata Sky and Sun Network. It has only 20 people on its rolls, and had a turnover of 02,039.33 crore in 2017-18. (Last year’s results are yet to be announced.)
The revenue is impressive, but not substantial. Antrix, which focuses on satellite launch services for its customers, has achieved only a fraction of what global players such as SpaceX and OneWeb have pulled in. “A lot of work needs to be done for Indian companies to play a meaningful role in the world market,” Sasibhushan tells THE WEEK. “Seventy to 80 per cent revenue in the space market comes from satellite services. Today, India’s share in the global space market is less than 7 per cent. Though India is a major space-faring nation, we do not have private players who can design and build space systems.”
Policymakers have not kept pace with the growing demand for space-based services in India. “Indian companies that are willing to invest in technology will be able to do well in the growing space ecosystem and eventually help India garner a fair share in the global market,” says Sasibhushan. “But, the growth of this segment in India is stifled by the lack of clarity in the regulatory framework and [ISRO’s] reluctance to share critical technologies.”
Growing demand, reduced costs and emerging technologies have brought the global space industry to an inflection point. “Satellite services, which command 90 per cent of industry revenues, are seeing a shift from a one-off satellite that serves a particular region, to global constellations,” he says. “Companies like OneWeb, SpaceX and Boeing have already announced communication constellations involving thousands of satellites. The global space industry is valued at around $360 billion today. Morgan Stanley has predicted that the revenues will pass the trillion-dollar mark by 2040.”
According to Sasibhushan, this calls for a clearer regulatory framework. “The much-awaited Space Activities Bill would be presented soon. This is expected to bring much-needed clarity, and encourage investment firms and venture capitalists to actively engage with space companies. That is why Antrix had mooted the transfer of small-satellite and small-launcher technologies to the Indian industry. These initiatives, together with the growing demand in space-based services, should usher in a revolution and improve India’s global footprint,” says Sasibhushan.
Skyroot Aerospace, a Hyderabad-based private space company, is building India’s first private orbital launch vehicles. ‘Vikram’, the first such vehicle, will be launched in 2021. It is capable of putting up satellites that weigh less than 300kg in low earth orbit (altitudes of up to 2,000km).
“We are also working on bigger launch vehicles,” says Pawan Kumar Chandana, Skyroot’s cofounder and chief executive officer. “Indian companies have an inherent advantage because of lower costs. We need private launch companies to come up and receive all required support from the government—like utilising government facilities and infrastructure. I think India needs at least one big launch vehicle with the capability of launching more than six tonnes to geostationary orbit; [a vehicle] built with public-private partnership, like SpaceX’s Falcon-9.”
Bengaluru-based Astrome Technologies plans to utilise the great market potential. “Just in the satellite communication market, there is a revenue potential of $1.7 billion a year,” says Neha Satak, Astrome’s chief executive officer. “This market will be driven by developing countries and marine and airline industries. We are bringing down the cost of satellite internet infrastructure by more than 10 per cent. The idea is to make satellite connectivity more accessible and expand the $1.7 billion market even further.”
The deep pockets of SpaceX and OneWeb pose a big challenge to Indian companies. “For Indian companies to do better business, the regulations need to be on the side of the companies,” says Satak. “This is the number one condition for space companies in India to have access to capital.”
Narayan Prasad, cofounder and chief operations officer of Satsearch, which has partnered with Antrix to promote Indian space capabilities in the international market, says India can claim a larger share of the world’s space industry market. “The problem in India is that companies are mostly reliant on ISRO to be their customer. At the same time, ISRO is very slow in transferring the necessary knowhow for companies to build end-to-end systems by themselves. This is one reason why you don’t see Indian companies competing globally in building satellites or rockets,” he says.
India’s new Defence Space Agency could be a boon. It could boost the domestic market by facilitating bigger investments and greater opportunities—like allowing Indian companies to cater to the technology requirements of the armed forces. “Through this, Indian companies could design, develop, manufacture, operate and provide services, all by themselves,” says Prasad. “This will allow them to take advantage of the low operating and infrastructure costs in India, and help them start competing globally.”
 
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Walchandnagar Industries climbs 20% on ISRO order
GK Pillai, Managing Director & CEO said it is company's second largest single order from ISRO and the largest as far as the GSLV-M KIII launch vehicle is concerned.
Shares of Walchandnagar Industries rallied 20 percent intraday on September 12 after bagging a contract from Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
The stock surged 22 percent in last five sessions. It was quoting at Rs 72.15, up Rs 12, or 19.95 percent on the BSE at 1044 hours IST.
Walchandnagar Industries (WIL) in its BSE filing said it secured an order worth Rs 77.20 crore plus escalation from the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre of ISRO located at Thiruvananthapuram.
The order is towards manufacturing and supply of head, middle and nozzle end segments (total 30 numbers) for the GSLV M KIII launch vehicle, it added.
GK Pillai, Managing Director & CEO said it is company's second largest single order from ISRO and the largest as far as the GSLV-M KIII launch vehicle is concerned.
"WIL has been a strategic partner to ISRO since the 1973 and has supplied critical launch vehicle hardware for all its programs (SLV, ASLV, PSLV, GSLV, and GSLV-M Klll) including the latest Chandrayaan-2 mission, he added.
 

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AgniKul Cosmos (@AgnikulCosmos) Tweeted:
Igniters, injectors, cooling channels, nozzle, mounts, ... name it and it is here. A 100% 3D printed, flightworthy semi cryo engine is here! 1000s of components reduced to 1 component. 3D printing is magic!
#fully3dprinted @makeinindia @startupindia @IITMIC https://t.co/G6RGx0OvRQ
 

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