Spacetech startup Pixxel’s plan to launch hyperspectral imaging satellites takes off

In a recent conversation with YourStory’s Daily Dispatch powered by HSBC, Awais Ahmed, Founder and CEO, Pixxel, speaks about the spacetech startup’s upcoming launches and its journey so far.
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Following fundraising of $25 million led by Radical Ventures, Pixxel has begun the process of launching its commercial phase satellite constellation, with the first one launched on a SpaceX rocket on April 1, 2022. 

The spacetech startup had, in 2021, launched a camera to prove its concept of using hyperspectral imaging for tracking various earth phenomena. Another launch is scheduled for the coming months, with an ISRO rocket carrying the satellite into orbit. Six launches have been scheduled in early 2023.

The Bangalore-based spacetech startup was founded in 2019 by two undergraduate engineering students - Awais Ahmed and Kshitij Khandelwal of Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani. 

Three years later, the startup has approximately 60 customers lined up to purchase data from them. Clients and customers come from a variety of industries, including agriculture, oil and gas, mining, government agencies, and so on. 

High-quality hyperspectral imaging has a wide range of applications across sectors. Awais names several use cases, including detecting oil and gas leaks, analysing soil nutrient content, locating forest fires, and discovering crop diseases.

The journey till now

This founders’ journey began while they were still in college and had joined a students' satellite team. In 2017, they were one of the finalists in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod competition, which gave them the opportunity to visit SpaceX's headquarters in Los Angeles.

“We took a tour of SpaceX factory. Looking at those rocket engines being built, looking at the rockets that had landed back...that is when it crystallised in my mind that I wanted to work in spacetech for the rest of my life,” says Awais Ahmed, Founder and CEO, Pixxel.

They discovered a gap in the segment - the satellite photos they got were of poor quality.

The duo sought to close the gap by employing hyperspectral imaging technology, which was previously being used to test food quality, detect cancer cells, and so on.

Pixxel has come a long way since then, raising a total of $33 million to date and being fully funded to begin commercial launches. There are many projects in the pipeline that are being worked on.

Awais says that the company's major revenue chunk will flow in once the six satellites have been launched. 

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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