Constituent policy

Space startups pin high hopes on next space policy to reach global markets

This follows the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)-C53 which made history by carrying payloads from two private Indian space startups into orbit last week as part of the first official public-private collaboration in the country’s space sector.

On June 10, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the space policy would be announced soon. Modi was speaking at the inauguration of the new headquarters of India’s Space Promotion and Licensing Center (In-Space). The policy should define the role that private companies can play in space missions, provide access to infrastructure and services owned by ISRO, among others.

Before the government privatized the space sector in June 2020, private companies did not have access to infrastructure at ISRO and other government space establishments. Private entities in the country were also not involved in the development of space components for the global market as this requires large investments. Companies have also struggled to raise funds to build adequate infrastructure.

Sanjay Nekkanti, CEO of satellite services start-up Dhruva Space, said the company expects growing demand for satellite manufacturing, launches and ground operations around the world, representing a $20 billion annual market opportunity.

“We have already received orders to manufacture and deploy commercial satellites worth $3 million from global companies, and we are still at a very early stage for commercial space operations. We will launch our micro-satellite aboard the next ISRO mission, PSLV-C54, after which we expect to increase orders for full-scale commercial satellites over the next 12 to 18 months,” he said. .

To expand its operations, Dhruva seeks to leverage existing infrastructure owned by ISRO, namely ISRO NanoSatellites (INS). Nekkanti said it can help Dhruva build custom satellites based on existing infrastructure, which will reduce costs.

Nanosatellites such as the INS are affordable satellites that are typically deployed in low Earth orbits and carry small payloads carrying private science experiments. These satellites are expected to contribute to a large portion of future satellite launches worldwide.

Similarly, Bengaluru-based Bellatrix Aerospace is also vying to offer a range of satellite services to global customers. Yashas Karanam, CEO of Bellatrix, said the company offers two types of satellite services, which include an indigenous electric satellite propulsion system and last-mile orbital connectivity for in-orbit satellite deployment.

To build this, Karanam said the company has set up local component sourcing for the satellites with help from ISRO and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It is also looking to work with private space operators such as US-based SpaceX and Rocket Labs to further reduce the cost of deploying satellites. It also plans to use a proprietary satellite electric propulsion system, which Karanam says can “significantly” reduce the cost of propulsion, making satellite launches more affordable.

Currently, the average cost of deploying a satellite with a private operator like SpaceX is around $1,200 per pound payload and $10,000 per pound for Rocket Lab. Although there are no official figures available, industry experts have said that Isro’s PSLV costs about the same as Rocket Lab in terms of cost per pound of satellite deployment.

Indian startups, with their solutions, seek to offer up to 30% reduction in satellite deployment costs with indigenous propulsion, launch and deployment solutions. Another Indian space startup, Astrogate Labs, is building a laser-based optical satellite communications framework for global deployment, which can help existing satellites improve data bandwidth and relay high-speed signals to stations. on the ground, or for satellite-to-satellite communications. Nitish Singh, CEO of Astrogate, said demand for such services is coming from global markets and the company has received expressions of interest from European satellite operators.

In addition, Anil Prakash, Managing Director of SatCom Industry Association of India (SIA-India), an industry body, said the upcoming space policy will define regulations for technology transfer, enabling private startups to Use and build on ISRO’s existing infrastructure, which can streamline both cost and deployment time, and enable startups to scale.

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