Space Start-Ups of India
Today, space travel is a huge buzzword. Elon Musk has become incredibly famous, not because of Paypal, Tesla, or his other successful ventures, but because of a smaller venture called SpaceX. SpaceX intends to lower rocket costs, increase efficiency, and ultimately colonize other planets. Fellow billionaires Jeff Bezos & Richard Branson have also started their own companies in the space exploration segment. This clearly shows the huge potential this area has. India, with its huge technical talent base, years of launch experience, and entrepreneurial youth is a fertile ground for space start-ups.
Space start-ups come in various shapes and sizes. SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are the behemoths of the industry who focus on rockets. Smaller start-ups focus on specific parts of the value chain. So, some start-ups focus exclusively on developing launch vehicles, while others on developing better fuels, some focus on micro-satellites, and so on. Various Indian startups focus on specific parts of the value chain. For instance, Bellatrix Aerospace, which counts Deepika Padukone as an investor, focuses on developing a water-based propulsion system that runs on electricity. The system is 30% more efficient and releases non-toxic waste. Similarly, Mumbai-based Exseed Space focuses on building smaller satellites that are much cheaper, lighter, and easier to transport. These satellites are used for detecting diseases in farms, detecting intruders, or even communicating from remote locations.
Space Start-Ups in India:
- SkyRoot Aerospace: A Hyderabad-based startup founded in 2018, became the first private company to test upper-stage rocket engines. The 3-D printed rocket engine named after Nobel laureate CV Raman weighs less than half of conventional rocket engines with a similar capacity. The first rocket, which can hurl satellites of 250-700 kgs into a lower Earth orbit, is expected to be launched by the end of 2021.
- Pixxel : Founded in 2019, focuses on satellites that help to detect global phenomena in real-time. The satellite weighs only 15 kilograms. They plan to build a constellation of small satellites to collect the data. The satellites will provide global coverage every 24 hours enabling organizations to detect, monitor, and predict global phenomena in real-time.
- Agnikul Cosmos: Founded in 2016, Agnikul Cosmos is based out of Chennai. This startup makes small launch vehicles. This startup was incubated at IIT Madras. The rocket they have developed is called Agnibaan is a semi cryogenic engine combustor and will be 3D printed.
- Bellatrix Aerospace: An Indian Institute of Science (IISc) incubated company which was founded in 2015, Bellatrix, develops propulsion systems for rockets. Bellatrix is designing a small rocket that can take a 150kg satellite up 550 km into space.This startup’s USP is that it has built an electric propulsion system that runs on water.
- Blue Sky Analytics: Launched by two siblings in 2018, this start-up focuses on analyzing environmental factors that can affect the ecosystem. In 2019, Blue Sky unveiled BreeZo, an air quality dataset for researchers, governments, and private companies. The company is now working on launching Zuri, a forest and farm fire management system.
Indian space start-ups have been collaborating with ISRO or foreign space exploration companies because they do not have access to advanced equipment, have low funding. ISRO also helps them test their technology by conducting launches and aiding experiments. This is a symbiotic relationship. The start-ups get to develop their technology while ISRO gets access to technology. Other start-ups have coordinated with SpaceX, Blue Origin, and others to test their products.
Space startups do face certain problems in India.These issues include no access to superior equipment, heavy regulations by the government, and no government aid to develop the space economy. Governments of other countries have various programs that promote space entrepreneurship. They provide funding, offer incentives, provide access to better technology, and provide other privileges to space start-ups. Similarly, these countries also have much lenient space regulations.It will take industry lobbies to coordinate with the government to promote business-friendly regulation.
Despite these headwinds, India has advantages which other countries don’t. India has a huge engineering talent pool that is accessible at a low economic cost. So, these space start-ups do not lack talented brain power. The cost of hiring skilled technical staff is much lower here. Along with this, ex-scientists from ISRO act as advisors to some of these startups. India is rich in natural resources, which make procuring all materials easy. The growth in infrastructure means that critical parts can be procured from all over the country. With the government focusing on ease of doing business, these startups will find it much easier to conduct business without much red-tape.
In conclusion, space start-ups offer India a huge opportunity to help us grow in the telecommunications and space exploration sectors. We have the funding and talented manpower required to pull this off. Despite having a fertile area for such start-ups, we lack the government help needed to kick-start the process. With the easing of regulations, the space start-up sector is destined to fly high. For more insightful stories, follow Insellers.