India’s Space Odyssey Spans 44 Years With Over 428 Satellites Launched. ISRO Has Launched Satellites For 27 Countries In The Last 5 Years.

US$ 38 billion to be spent globally to launch 7,000 more satellites by 2027.

A whopping 328 satellites that orbit the earth was launched by Indian rockets for other countries.

The ISRO also created a world record of launching largest number of satellites - 104 satellites out of which 101 were foreign in a single PSLV rocket.

ISRO has earned Rs 1,245.17 crore during the last five years launching satellites from 26 countries.

Pixxel raised US$ 5 million seed funding from Blume, growX and Lightspeed that will strengthen its plans for its first satellite launch.

With a constellation of 432-plus satellites orbiting  the earth, the Indian space programme has not only  been a moonshot for Indians, but also for the world.  A whopping 328 satellites that orbit the earth were launched by Indian rockets for other countries. It all  started in 1999, when India for the first time launched  foreign satellites - South Korea’s Kitsat-3 weighing 107  kg and Germany’s 45 kg DLR-Tubsat - as a piggyback luggage on the country’s own 1,050 kg Oceansat with  the PSLV-C2 rocket.

The ISRO also created a world record of launching the largest number of satellites -104 satellites out of which 101 were foreign in a single PSLV rocket on 15.2.2017. ISRO  has earned Rs 1,245.17 crore during the last five years  launching satellites from 26 countries.

Contracts with 10 countries namely: the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, Singapore, The Netherlands, Japan, Malaysia, Algeria and France were signed in the last five  years under commercial arrangements, Union Minister  of State in the Department of Space and Department of Atomic Energy Jitendra Singh told Rajya Sabha in December 2019.

Bulk of the foreign satellites lofted by ISRO rocket were small ones, the heaviest foreign satellites that it had put into orbit in 2015 were the three UK satellites UK-DMC 3A, 3B and 3C each weighing 447 kg.

On January 17, 2020, India’s telecommunication satellite 3,357 kg GSAT-30 -replacement for INSAT-4A-was successfully launched into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) on from Kourou launch base, French Guiana by an Ariane rocket. In 2019, ISRO’s workhorse PSLV rocket had lofted 52.7 ton, out of which 17 per cent consists of customer satellites.

India’s manned space flights are also on track. Four astronauts have been picked for training, which is set to begin in Russia later this month. Up to three astronauts are expected to take part in the mission, which is slated to take place by 2022.

The country’s Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan missions, which are currently in progress with more launches  scheduled over the next three years, have been rated  the most cost-effective space missions ever.

Chandrayaan 3’s equipment will cost US$ 35 million, while the full cost of the mission will be slightly more. While the Indian Space Research Organization has been  at the forefront for driving the space sector so far, the  Ministry of Finance, Government of India announced  opening up the sector to private players in May 2019.  The reforms include level playing field for private  companies in satellites, launches and space-based  services by introducing a predictable policy and  regulatory environment to private players and  providing access to geospatial data and facilities  of ISRO. 

The government has taken proactive measures  to incubate new entrants in the sector. It was a great  start. “The space tech startups in India are stated  to be extremely good and can launch a rocket at 1/3 rd  the cost as compared to US in the same segment,”  said Arpit Agarwal, principal at Blume Ventures. There were three funding deals in 2020, according  to data sourced from Tracxn. 

Pixxel raised US$ 5 million seed funding from Blume,  growX and Lightspeed that will strengthen its plans  for its first satellite launch later this year and accelerate  development of the second satellite.

In March, Agnikul, a Chennai-based spacetech startup  raised US$ 3.5 million led by pi Ventures and in May,  Pune-based Vesta Space Technology raised US$ 10  million from US-based Next Capital LLC.

Pixxel technologies also raised US$ 5 million in seed  funding in August. Founded in 2019 by then 21-year olds  Awais Ahmed and Kshitij Khandelwal, while still studying at the Birla Institiute of Technology and Science (BITS),  Pilani, Pixxel’s satellites claim to collect high quality  data as compared to today’s satellites that will then  be analyzed using machine and deep learning models  in order to detect, monitor and predict global problems.  The first satellite is scheduled to launch towards the end  of 2021 on a Soyuz rocket.

Indian companies will spend less both in terms of manufacturing and operating costs as compared to US companies. India also has an enormous talent pool of engineers that can be taped into and the VC eco system is warming up.

Demand is picking up while the technology and talent in India is on a par with the Silicon Valley and with the government opening up the sector, space tech startups
are in a good orbit.

Part of StartupXseed’s portfolio, Bellatrix Aerospace that is developing orbital launch vehicles (rockets) and electric propulsion systems for satellites, raised US$ 3 million in a pre-Series A round last year.

“Now is the best time to do a space tech startup,  because the government and ISRO have opened  up the space sector. Earlier there was no legal framework to launch a satellite or rocket, neither was ISRO facility open for private companies,” says Yashas Karanam co-founder and COO at Bellatrix.

The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) incubated startup,  founded by two 22-year-olds, is also the only venture in  India to have a development contract from ISRO.