Companies like Space X, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic come to mind when thinking of companies transforming the space industry. But after private players are allowed in Indian space exploration, we now have our own top space companies.
Companies built rockets, launched vehicles and satellites using cutting-edge technology at a fraction of the cost.
Although still in its infancy, India’s space technology industry is producing tremendous results.
A variety of legislative reforms and government initiatives have sparked increased investment interest in the sector.
The Indian space tech industry is expected to contribute significantly to the global space economy, which is likely to develop to over US$2 trillion in the next two decades.
The top three Indian space businesses are listed below.
Agnikul Cosmos, a space tech startup based out of IIT Madras, is constructing its small-lift launch vehicle, the Agnibaan, capable of delivering a 100 kg payload into a 700 km orbit.
Agnibaan is adjustable by the customer and is powered by LOX/Kerosene engines at all stages.
Agnibaan does not always fly with the same amount of engines. The number of machines in the first stage is determined by the mission, the satellite, and the launch port.
Agnikul has inked an MoU with EOS India, a global pioneer in 3D printing technology, to produce the launch vehicle using 3D printing.
In 2022, the first commercial launch is expected. A fully 3D printed semi-cryo rocket engine was recently test-fired by the startup.
Agnikul raised US$11 million in Series A investment in May 2021. It previously raised US$ 3.1 million in institutional capital in May 2020.
Anand Mahindra, an industrialist, has also invested in the company.
Skyroot Aerospace, like Agnikul, is developing rockets for launching payloads (satellites for today and future humanity) into space.
For the past two years, the company has been working on its Vikram series of launch vehicles. The series is named after Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India’s space programme.
Its immediate goal is to commercialise Vikram-1 and then deploy out the Vikram-2 and 3 variants.
When used together, these are practically the same with a 20% upgrade, but they cover the widest payload ranges, from 1 kg to 700 kg of satellites. It is not possible with currently available automobiles.
Vikram 1 will be launched into orbit for the first time in mid-2022.
It has already successfully test-fired the Kalam-5 solid-propulsion rocket engine. By December 2021, a scaled-up version will be produced and tested at ISRO’s facilities before being used to power the Vikram rocket.
The startup’s Series A round of funding totalled $11 million. In 2018, it had already raised US$1.5 million.
The Solar Group, a significant space and defence supplier, is a member of the startup’s board of directors. Former WhatsApp global business executives Neeraj Arora and Mukesh Bansal, the founder of Myntra and CureFit, are significant investors.
Pixxel plans to deploy a constellation of more than 30 earth observation micro-satellites into space while Agnikul and Skyroot Aerospace work on launch vehicles.
The startup is primarily focused on developing technology and establishing infrastructure for the construction of a satellite constellation. The company also provides a machine learning platform for extracting meaningful data insights.
Pixxel’s satellite array can give 24-hour global coverage to identify, monitor, and predict international events.
Satellite imaging and remote sensing data are invaluable tools for use cases such as weather, agriculture, commodities, and insurance.
Pixxel had planned to launch its first satellite, dubbed “Anand,” in February 2021, but it was postponed due to technical issues.
By December 2022, the space tech business wants to launch the first phase of a constellation, which will consist of six to eight satellites. By December 2023, the whole constellation will be operational.
The firm raised $7.3 million in its seed round in March 2021. It collected about $5 million from existing investors in August 2020, and it is already in talks to raise another $15–20 million after the launch of its first satellite into space.
Growth of Indian Space Sector after entry of Private Players
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman declared in May 2020 that commercial businesses would participate in the space sector.
Following this, the Union Cabinet announced the creation of IN-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre), an autonomous organisation that will assist commercial actors in space-related activities and govern private tech innovation in space, as an extension of ISRO.
With these legislative changes and reforms, the private sector is increasingly participating in a domain that the government previously dominated.
As a result, India today boasts more than a hundred active space technology startups. They are not, however, alone.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, India’s telecom king, puts his money and reputation towards the internet from space. The Tatas have also resurrected their telecom dreams and are entering the satellite communications market.
Global tech behemoths have stepped forward to assist India on its new space trip, sensing an opportunity.
Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s cloud division, is interested in assisting the government in transforming the space sector by providing data storage and cutting-edge technologies, as well as tapping into the multibillion-dollar market.
Thanks to these fascinating advances, the Indian space tech industry is on the verge of a space revolution. India will soon have its own SpaceX and Virgin Galactic.