India's emerging private space sector

Swesh

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Space startup Pixxel reaches for the sky, plans six earth imaging satellites in 2023
Awais Ahmed Co-Founder and CEO, Pixxel in an exclusive interview said that space technologies are critical in impacting government and industry decision-making and Pixxel’s constellation will significantly improve the quality of data available.

Space startup Pixxel reaches for the sky, plans six earth imaging satellites in 2023
Awais Ahmed – Co-Founder and CEO, Pixxel.
Pixxel, an Indian space technology startup based in Bengaluru, is building constellations of high-resolution earth imaging satellites. These will provide global imagery at a daily frequency to customers in a wide range of industries worldwide. The company is connecting with global players across industries. “We have been receiving interest from companies, governments and resellers especially from the environment and sustainability sectors. That’s where the data is most applicable,” says Awais Ahmed – Co-Founder and CEO, Pixxel.

Awais Ahmed – Co-Founder and CEO, Pixxel, shares updates about his company’s activities with Huma Siddiqui


Pixxel is India’s youngest earth observation company revolutionizing space technology for a better world?
Our company is building a health monitor for the planet through the manufacture and launch of a constellation of high throughput hyperspectral earth imaging satellites and the analytical tools to mine insights from that data. Hyperspectral imaging provides information in hundreds of wavelengths, which is 50 times more information than existing multispectral satellites, providing 10-20 wavelengths. Through this technology, the satellites enable the detection and monitoring of ground level phenomena that have hitherto remained unseen.
In addition, Pixxel’s data platform uses artificial intelligence to provide a sand-box like environment for users to extract insights from satellite imagery. The use cases include climate change, agriculture, mining, energy and urban planning.

Space technologies are critical in impacting government and industry decision-making. Pixxel’s constellation will significantly improve the quality of data available to make these decisions by democratising access to a technology that has remained within the confines of research labs and government agencies.

What is the significance of Hyperspectral Imagery in making India self reliant in energy, defense and agriculture?
Hyperspectral imaging provides information in very narrow bands, which allows detection of microscopic phenomena. When this information is available for every part of the planet at a 24-hour revisit, which is Pixxel’s mission it becomes an extremely powerful tool.

Within agriculture, Hyperspectral imaging can provide detailed information about the biophysical and biochemical properties of crops and soil. When deployed at scale, it is possible to identify crop stress, chlorophyll content, pest infestation, soil carbon and other soil composition parameters.

This can significantly bring down the level of manual effort required across the country and provide a more economical and scalable method of agricultural data points. This can feed into a centralised data repository, which can improve the quality of crop and soil decisions in order to help India achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On the energy front, hyperspectral imaging is a powerful tool for exploration activities and environmental damage mitigation. These satellites can be used to explore hydrocarbons across different locations and also detect any pipeline leakages or spills. The presence of hydrocarbons or any underground leakages typically leads to change in soil/water composition, which becomes detectable by hyperspectral sensors.

Similarly, hyperspectral imaging opens up an array of use cases within the defense domain. The sensitivity of hyperspectral sensors to very minute on-ground movements and activities makes it a potent tool. It can be used for use cases such as terrain categorisation, troop and infrastructure monitoring and anomaly detection amongst other things. Such information will strengthen our independence in the international arena, provide us with the means to forge international alliances, and assert our interests in the international geopolitical arena.

What is the way ahead for the company post the launch with satellite data insights?
We are focused on launching the first batch of six constellation satellites in the second half of next year, which will be followed by a series of launches, taking the final number to 24 constellation satellites. These satellites will provide 24-hour coverage of all parts of the planet at 5m resolution.

The team is currently working on design, assembly and testing of the next batch, based out of Bengaluru. In addition, Pixxel is parallely working on a geospatial analytics platform which will complement the dataset by acting as a tool to extract information from the imagery.

How can space technology help tech aligned MSMEs?
MSMEs have been quick and resilient in embracing new technologies. They have witnessed behavioral changes towards adoption of technology in terms of growth, boosting customer engagement and improving employee working experience. With the democratization of space data over the coming years, it will play a pivotal role in major business decisions right from capital allocation, supply chains, logistics and consumer insights. More importantly, the availability of space data will hugely improve the ability of MSMEs to scale their businesses and enter new markets.

Any global alliances?
Spacetech is an international game and Pixxel is open to global alliances across industries.

We have a tie up with Cloud-Based Agritech Company, Data Farming. Data Farming is bringing Pixxel’s hyperspectral satellite technology to Australian farmers to take advantage of the world’s most detailed satellite imaging and AI tools for crop health monitoring and sustainability efforts.

The satellite imagery will revolutionize agriculture by giving farmers access to a new caliber of analytical tools powered by insights from space. It will help farmers make better and faster decisions by providing a new scale and resolution to the monitoring of crop and soil health.

Procalculo, of South American nation Colombia has joined the Pixxel network as an integral channel partner for access to our rich hyperspectral dataset. This will be used to map and protect Colombia’s vibrant biodiversity among many other use cases.

This partnership is significant since Colombia ranks second amongst the twelve most bio-diverse countries in the world. It is a beautiful territory with a lot of land uses and coverage, but it’s also a big challenge to map this using today’s multispectral remote sensing solutions. Pixxel’s hyperspectral imagery will help to unlock a new level of species detection and classification capability helping them to produce richer thematic maps of the country.

 

Bharatiya

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Where does Indian Private Space Industry stand among private space industries of all nations?

(It's a bit premature since we recently started, but still :scared2:)
 

Indx TechStyle

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Where does Indian Private Space Industry stand among private space industries of all nations?

(It's a bit premature since we recently started, but still :scared2:)
There is no comparision . This qus shd be kept in hanger for next 15/20 years .
Far behind US, Russia, China, France and Japan while ahead of others (basically ahead of countries only who don't have space programs).
Though in terms of independent private launch capabilities, Indian private space industry this third after only US and China.
 

Vamsi

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One more Indian Private Space Startup
 

Swesh

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Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Gurugram, Haryana-based private space firm, Vyom Space Exploration and Services Private Limited, for its “human and cargo transportation capsule program", the central space agency announced on Tuesday. The MoU was facilitated by India’s nodal space authorization body, Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (In-Space).


According to Isro, the startup is being incubated under ‘JSIIC’. Details about the incubation program, or Isro’s targeted timelines, were not disclosed publicly by the body.

A ‘capsule’ in a space mission is the module inside which any cargo is placed for being carried to space. In manned missions, the capsule is what hosts the astronauts. The capsules have typically been single-use in nature, with the exception of US-based private space firm, Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s reusable human and cargo module, Crew Dragon.


Manish Kukreti, founder and chief executive of Vyom Space, told Mint that the company has so far been working with research and development (R&D) partners in Europe to develop its product.

“India is not a market that is already developed in terms of the entire gamut of space infrastructure, which required us to tap global partners to develop our product. There will be a clear and obvious demand in the space industry for reusable capsules that can carry cargo and eventually humans, and so far, only the US and China have been able to develop such a product," Kukreti said.

According to Kukreti, the company will be delivering the first prototype of its space capsule to Isro within the next 16 months, subsequent to which the capsule would be tested by the space body. “We are developing only the core technology of the capsule itself, and given the vast body of expertise that Isro has in the other parts of a space mission, wouldn’t want to delve into every single aspect of it," he said.


Isro’s announcement of an MoU with Vyom Space comes amid a slew of achievements for the private space sector in India. On November 18, Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace became the first himegrown private space company to launch a rocket into space. A week later, on November 26, Pixxel and Dhruva Space launched their second round of satellites aboard Isro’s latest commercial mission.

Last week, Srinath Ravichandran, chief executive of Agnikul Cosmos, told Mint that the company plans to launch its own rocket — and India’s first orbital private rocket — from Srihariokota, Andhra Pradesh before the end of the year.



Vyom’s Kukreti said that the company’s own module will be reusable, and therefore be an evolution of what the first prototype module of Isro’s manned mission, Gaganyaan, will use. “If you look at Gaganyaan, the modules are all single-use modules, which thus do not have high commercial viability. This is what we seek to offer to Isro’s missions," he said.


While Kukreti refused to disclose funding details of the startup, he admitted that building a space capsule is “a very capital intensive task". However, he claimed that the startup already has “commitments" from private investors around the world.
 

Swesh

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Bellatrix Aerospace plans multiple launches in 2023 to test satellite engines
The space tech start-up also plans to launch its space taxi, or orbital transfer vehicle, service by 2024.
AIHIK SUR DECEMBER 06, 2022 / 04:10 PM IST

Bellatrix Aerospace co-founders Rohan Ganapathy (l) and Yashas Karnam (r) with former president Pranab Mukherjee
Bellatrix Aerospace co-founders Rohan Ganapathy (l) and Yashas Karnam (r) with former president Pranab Mukherjee
Bengaluru-based space tech start-up Bellatrix Aerospace plans to test its propulsion technologies — systems that guide satellites to their destination — in space by 2023, and launch its "space taxi" service by 2024.

A space taxi, also known as an 'orbital transfer vehicle' (OTV), is a last-mile connector for satellites aboard rockets. Satellite propulsion systems, or thrusters, are the engines that keep satellites in orbit for their entire lifespan, which is approximately 10-15 years.

The engines assist satellites in space by allowing them to move from one orbit to another as well as manage other orbital parameters such as orientation, inclination, and so on.

The start-up has developed four different types of thrusters: hall thrusters, microwave plasma thrusters, nano thrusters and green propulsion systems. Different types of thrusters will cater to satellites ranging in size from nano to heavy.

The thrusters are also one-of-the-kind. The microwave plasma thruster, for instance, uses water as a fuel. Yashas Karanam, co-founder of Bellatrix Aerospace, told Moneycontrol that the company holds a global patent for the thruster and has received an order from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). He said that the hall thruster is propelled by the power available on satellites.



Founded in 2015 by Rohan M Ganapathy and Karanam, the company also concentrated on manufacturing launch vehicles (like Agnikul Cosmos or Skyroot Aerospace). However, given the high level of competition in the space launch vehicle market, it later decided to focus solely on developing satellite propulsion technologies.

The start-up has thus far raised $8 million in Series A funding and is in the process of securing additional funds. This funding will support the $75 million investment commitment made in partnership with the Karnataka government for the establishment of a research and development centre and manufacturing factory for space taxis and rocket propulsion systems.

Multiple test launches planned

Karanam said Bellatrix is planning multiple launches in 2023 to test its four propulsion technologies in space. He said that testing these thrusters would be very different from testing a rocket for space.

"A rocket launch lasts for about a maximum of 30 minutes. So all your systems should be designed, tested and qualified for maximum 30 minutes of operation. But for a satellite propulsion system, I have to design and qualify it for 15 years of operation in space," he said.

Moreover, the differences and complexities increase when developing satellite propulsion systems because the engines must operate in space. "So we need to test these engines in a vacuum," Karanam said, adding that the thrusters have already been tested in a simulated vacuum setup at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru.

"We will be flying them on actual satellites and the test will go on for a couple of months once in space," he said.

The rocket market is crowded

The decision to pivot from its plans to manufacture a rocket (Chetak), to making propulsion systems for satellites was a tough one for Bellatrix Aerospace. "It's common for engineers to have a passion for making rockets. However, from the business standpoint, it is tough," Karanam said.

When Bellatrix started, there were only two companies in the world manufacturing rockets with payload capacities of less than 500 kg. "Today, as the market has been expanding, there are more than 230 companies," he said.

"So there is not enough market for 230 companies to do it. And if we had entered the market, we would only win if we offered cheap prices for launches despite building some of the best technologies. So our profit margins would have decreased," he said.

On the other hand, the lack of competition in the satellite propulsion systems market was appealing to Bellatrix, and gaps in existing technologies provided them with an opportunity.

"Traditionally satellites use hydrazine as a fuel for propulsion systems. This is a very toxic and carcinogenic chemical. People handling it would have to wear HAZMAT (hazardous materials) suits and there are a lot of regulations and restrictions around its usage," Karanam said.

"Even the plants (for making hydrazine) had to be close to the rocket launch site because it is a very unstable compound and sensitive to shock," he added.

Apart from the environmental concerns associated with the use of hydrazine, Bellatrix identified the need for fuel that is significantly lighter than hydrazine. "Most of your satellite weight goes behind fuel — because you have to carry fuel that will sustain the satellite for its entire 15-year life span," he said.

"So for instance, in a 5-tonne communication satellite, one would have to carry 3.5 tonne of just fuel, only 300 kg would be the useful payload. So instead of paying for the 300 kg, you are actually paying the cost of a 5-tonne satellite. And for launch vehicles, you have to pay per kilogram, thus taking costs higher," he explained.

Thus, according to Karanam, the start-up began looking at different solutions that were "cleaner, safer, and more efficient," and they zeroed in on technologies such as microwave plasma thrusters that use water as fuel, and so on.

"Everything that we have done was all built in-house at Bellatrix. And we have not just made the thruster but we have also made a lot of subsystems for it," he said.

Thruster subsystems include catalysts, thermal coatings, testing and calibration equipment, and so on. "All these were done to cut down costs, and take advantage in terms of the lead times that we can offer to our customers," he said.

Why space taxis?

The start-up is also manufacturing orbital transfer vehicles, or space taxis, which it plans to launch into space by 2024.

"Rockets carrying multiple satellites usually go to the orbital destination of the customer who pays the most. So our OTV would help the other satellites on the rocket reach the required orbit after it is deployed," Karanam said.

These OTVs would be mounted on the launch vehicle, and after it has travelled to the required location in space to deploy the primary satellite, the OTVs will assist the other satellites in travelling to their respective locations. "This would be much cheaper than taking a chartered flight," said Karanam.

By "chartered flight," Karanam refers to rockets that can be launched exclusively for the needs of one customer who plans to deploy a satellite at the time they choose (as opposed to ISRO's PSLV, which carries multiple satellites and launches sporadically each year.

The start-up currently has collaborations with rocket manufacturer Skyroot Aerospace, satellite infrastructure manufacturer Dhruva Space and space data analytics company SatSure.
 

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