These 5 startups are propelling India’s spacetech ecosystem

These spacetech startups, which develop launch vehicles, satellites, propulsion engines, and remote sensors, among others, are democratising access to spacetech for companies in India and beyond.
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The Indian space tech sector is soaring to new heights. According to data from Tracxn, funding into this sector jumped 198.67 percent in 2021 touching $67.2 million across 11 rounds, up from $22.5 million in 2020 across nine rounds.

Ever since the Indian central government took steps to privatise the space sector, the number of startups in the sector increased to 47 in 2021 from 11 in 2019, as per the Economic Survey 2022

YourStory presents a list of promising Indian spacetech startups that are developing launch vehicles, satellites, propulsion engines, remote sensors etc and also democratising access to space technologies for companies in India and beyond.

Dhruva Space

Launched in 2012 by Sanjay Nekkanti, an alumnus of SRM University and later joined by Abhay Egoor, Krishna Teja, and Chaitanya Dora, all alumni of BITS-Pilani, Dhruva Space is focused on building full-stack space engineering solutions. 

The spacetech startup is based out of Hyderabad, India, and Graz, Austria.

The platform offers modular application-agnostic satellite platforms to enable faster, reliable, and cost-effective access to space. Coupled with providing launch and ground station services, Dhruva Space also provides integrated one-stop access to the clients in owning and operating space-based assets.

The startup is active across space, launch, and ground segments and supports both civil and defence clients worldwide. 

Dhruva Space has already started to foster industry-academia collaborations and has already collaborated with BITS - Hyderabad, and IIT Hyderabad. It is incubated in the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre in Austria, providing them access to the European market and technology.

In October 2021, it raised Rs 22 crore led by IAN Fund and Blue Ashva Capital. 

SatSure

Founded in 2017 by Prateep Basu, Rashmit Singh Sukhmani and Abhishek Raju, Bengaluru-based spacetech startup SatSure is a decision intelligence company that works at the convergence of space technology, artificial intelligence, and sustainability. 

It provides three key offerings – SatSure Sparta platform for agriculture and climate insights in a freemium model; SatSure SAGE, a life cycle risk monitoring and business intelligence product for the agriculture financial services; and SatSure SKIES, which is a high-resolution satellite imagery-based infrastructure change detection platform.

The platform is involved in building decision insights using data from satellites for the banking and insurance sectors.

The startup has tie-ups with companies like ICICI Bank, Reliance General Insurance, and Samunnati Finance, among others. 

In November 2021 it raised an undisclosed amount of equity funding in a round led by Baring Private Equity India.  

The capital will be used for expanding its team, growing its product portfolio, and increasing its international business footprint. It is also looking to capitalise on its high-resolution optical and multispectral payload demonstration mission in orbit that was announced earlier this year.

Pixxel

Launched in 2019 by 20-year-olds Awais Ahmed and Kshitij Khandelwal, Los Angeles and Bengaluru-based spacetech startup Pixxel is creating a health monitor for the planet by building and launching the hyperspectral imaging satellites.

It claims to have worked with notable organisations such as the ISRO, NASA JPL and SpaceX among space stalwarts. It is also backed by Lightspeed, Radical Ventures, Relativity's Jordan Noone, Seraphim Capital, Ryan Johnson, Blume Ventures, Sparta LLC, growX ventures, Inventus Capital, and Omnivore VC among others.

Pixxel says its platform unlocks a range of novel environment and sustainability use cases, offering advanced tools for agriculture, oil and gas, mining, and environmental agencies to analyse geospatial composites of the earth’s surface in real-time through a simple API (application programming interface). This level of precise detail will provide deep insights for the government to control and manage risk activities across several industries. 

The startup also successfully retrieved its first hyper spectral satellite images recently from a camera that was launched last year with partners NanoAvionics and Dragonfly Aerospace.

In April 2022, it launched its first fully-fledged commercial satellite Shakuntala (Technology Demonstrator-2) with the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket. Shakuntala hosts one of the highest resolution hyperspectral commercial cameras ever flown to space, bringing it one step closer to building a 24x7 health monitor for the planet. 

Traditional earth imaging collects data in the visible light spectrum, limiting the end use cases. Hyperspectral imaging collects data across 40x more wavelengths and can be used for a myriad of applications in India such as monitoring methane emissions, quantifying carbon sequestration, and monitoring disease outbreaks across cropland.

In March 2022, it raised $25 million in a Series A funding led by Radical Ventures, a Toronto-based firm known for investing in entrepreneurs that use artificial intelligence to transform massive industries.

Agnikul Cosmos

Founded in 2017 by Srinath Ravichandran, Moin SPM, and Professor SR Chakravarthy, Chennai-based Agnikul is involved in building a private small satellite launch vehicle. Its core product, Agnibaan, is a smallsat launch vehicle capable of carrying up to 100 kg of payload to Low Earth orbits.

Earlier in 2021, the startup test-fired the world’s first 3D printed rocket engine Agnilet and had said it will undertake more such tests in the remainder of the year.

In May last year, it raised $11 million in a Series A funding round led by Mayfield India. Existing investors including pi Ventures, Speciale Invest and Artha Venture Fund also participated in the round.

The spacetech startup had raised $3.1 million in its pre-series A funding in March 2020, and a seed round from Speciale Invest in 2019.

In September 2021, it signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Department of Space to access ISRO's facilities and expertise and undertake tests for its single-piece 3D-printed semi cryo engine and other systems.

Astrogate Labs 

Started in 2017 by Nitish Singh and Aditya Kedlaya, Astrogate Labs is a space technology company from Bengaluru, building core technologies in optical/laser communication terminals. It is building an entire chain of optical/laser communication systems to tackle the problem of high-speed communication in space. 

 

The space tech platform, Astrogate Labs, enables satellite constellation operators to get more data from space to earth securely and affordably.

Currently, the firm has a qualified space-to-ground laser communication solution with its “smallsat optical downlink terminal” which can be readily integrated on any small/nanosatellite platforms and provide up to one Gbps downlink. The company further plans to provide space-to-space laser communication terminals as well.

 The technology is akin to terrestrial fibre optics which has become ubiquitous. Astrogate Labs is bringing fibre-like speeds for satellite communication. 

 

Being in the space technology sector, Astrogate claims that it has matured its technology/products over the last year and is focussing on getting flight heritage in 2022. The firm is coordinating with satellite constellation operators for commercialisation/early sales of its laser terminal and downlink services.

 

The company has already established itself as an end-to-end laser communication solution provider and sees its revenues growing in 2023 and beyond as it establishes commercial laser communication.     

 

The startup raised pre-Series A capital in November 2020. The investment was led by Speciale Invest. Anicut Angel Fund and SuprValue.vc have also co-invested as part of the round.

Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti