New Delhi: India’s space industry achieved a number of key milestones in 2022 which included the first trial launch of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), two rounds of satellite launches from private space firms, and India’s first private rocket launch as well. This has opened the gates to 2023 being a potentially pivotal year for India in space — when ISRO could make key announcements for milestone missions such as Gaganyaan, and private start-ups could find regular launch footing.
The five space start-ups to be watch in the coming year are Skyroot Aerospace, Pixxel, Agnikool Cosmos, Dhruva Space and Bellatrix Aerospace.
Through 2022, Skyroot achieved two important milestones. In September this year, the start-up raised $50.5 million as part of its Series B funding round, with the investment being led by a foreign investor — Singapore’s sovereign fund, GIC. It also made the funding round the largest single round of funding to date for India’s fledgling space sector. In November itself, Skyroot became the first private space start-up to launch a rocket from home soil, making it a potentially leading start-up to watch in 2023.
However, prior to Skyroot, Pixxel became the first private Indian start-up to launch its satellite — sending its first satellite, Shakuntala, to a low Earth orbit (LEO) aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in April this year. The start-up followed this up with a launch aboard ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)’s C54 mission for its second satellite, hence taking a step closer to establishing its high-resolution satellite imaging constellation. The coming year 2023 could be the year Pixxel makes marquee signings in terms of clients, and becomes a leading presence in the global satellite surveillance, imaging and data analytics space.
Agnikul is expected to soon launch India’s first private spaceflight that reaches the orbit (Skyroot’s launch was sub-orbital, meaning that while it flew to space, it did not reach the Earth’s orbit). This makes it one of two key Indian space start-ups that are vying to rival the likes of France’s Arianespace and USA’s SpaceX to become regular commercial satellite launchers. Agnikul also became the first space start-up to open its own ground station and mission control room in ISRO’s premises.
Hyderabad-headquartered Dhruva Space start-up is one of only three private startups in India to have flown at least one of its satellites or launchers to space (alongside Pixxel and Skyroot). So far, Dhruva Space has made two launches, in which it has launched tech demonstrator satellites that can prove its capability as a contract manufacturer for satellites. The company is in talks to raise a funding round in the first half of 2023 — which it will use to build its own, large-scale satellite manufacturing facility.
Arguably the ‘quietest’ of the top space start-ups in India, 2023 could be a major year for Bangalore-based Bellatrix Aerospace. In November this year, the start-up announced that it is building a new facility, where it will test and prototype development of satellite thrusters — small engines that would help satellites align themselves, and reach their intended orbits. The $76 million facility, spread across five acres, could establish Bellatrix Aerospace as a key private space start-up that would offer components and peripheral services commercially by 2023.