Indian start-ups take giant leap into space with first payloads launched on ISRO rocket

Indian start-ups take giant leap into space with first payloads launched on ISRO rocket

The event is expected to set the pace for many more such launches by private sector players in India’s commercial space sector in the coming months.

Indian start-ups take giant leap into space with first payloads launched on ISRO rocket (Photo: ISRO Twitter handle) Indian start-ups take giant leap into space with first payloads launched on ISRO rocket (Photo: ISRO Twitter handle)

In what is a watershed moment for start-ups in the country’s commercial space sector, high-end technology payloads of Bengaluru-based Digantara Aerospace and Hyderabad-headquartered Dhruva Space were successfully launched from the iconic Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Andhra Pradesh on Thursday evening.

A PSLV C53 rocket thundered towards the heavens at 1802 hrs carrying Digantara’s ROBust Integrating (ROBI) proton fluence meter and Dhruva Space’s satellite orbital deployer on Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C53 mission. Both payloads were successfully tested and space-qualified in the earth’s orbit.

Three Singaporean satellites were also injected into the orbit by the same mission.

In a Tweet sent Friday morning prime minister Narendra Modi noted, “The PSLV C53 mission has achieved a new milestone by launching two payloads of Indian Start-ups in Space. Congratulations @INSPACeIND and @isro for enabling this venture. Confident that many more indian companies will reach Space in near future.”


The launches were made possible after the Indian Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) – a single-window nodal agency formed to promote, authorise, monitor and supervise space-related activities by non-governmental private entities (NGPEs) in the country – gave the go-ahead for the payloads to fly onboard the ISRO mission on June 24.

“The first two launch authorisations issued by IN-SPACe is an important milestone and marks the beginning of private space sector launches in India,” observed a satisfied chairperson IN-SPACe, Pawan Goenka.

Both Digantara and Dhruva utilised the PSLV Orbital Experimental Module (POEM), which allows in-orbit scientific experiments using the spent PS4 stage as an orbital platform.

Making space activities safer

Digantara’s ROBI is not only the world’s first commercial space-based weather system but also the smallest, the company claimed in a statement to Business Today.

An ever-growing number of human-made objects in the near-earth orbit and an increase in space-based activities such as refuelling, servicing and space tourism has necessitated high-fidelity situational awareness to ensure smooth conduct of space activities.

“Just as terrestrial navigation services are essential for the ground logistics sector, serving as an infrastructure layer for companies such as Uber, we can leverage space mapping capabilities towards providing an infrastructure layer for effective operations,” Digantara CEO Anirudh Sharma told BT.

Another challenge arises from space weather, a complex phenomenon. It is mostly occasioned by high-energy particles, plasma and electromagnetic waves originating from the sun or the cosmos interacting with the earth’s magnetic field. A major space weather event can have significant repercussions on both space and terrestrial systems.

“On the space operations end, a solar event can cause a sudden increase in the radiation experienced by spacecraft electronics and even cause an increase in drag due to thermospheric heating. A comparable event recently cost SpaceX 40 of its satellites,” informed Sharma.

Application agnostic satellite platforms

Dhruva Space has, meanwhile, developed satellite deployment systems that are compatible with ISRO’s PSLV launch vehicles. This is one of the most important aspects of satellite deployment. Founded in 2012, the space technology start-up is focused on offering full-stack space engineering solutions by building application-agnostic satellite platforms.

The company is also looking at developing similar solutions for start-up peers like Skyroot and Agnikul, which have been working towards building their rockets. Both Skyroot and Agnikul are looking at launching their rockets into space in the first half of 2023.

“Our successful testing and space-qualification of Dhruva Space’s Satellite Orbital Deployer mark a new chapter in India’s space history, and the PSLV C53 mission is an iconic milestone in the journey of Dhruva Space,” observed a delighted CEO of Dhruva Space, Sanjay Nekkanti.

“This is also a big win for the Dhruva Space team who have all worked together with unrelenting determination to ensure the success of ultimately gaining space heritage. We look forward to supporting our international clients with CubeSat deployers, integration and launch services,” he added.

Globally, the commercial space sector is worth $360 billion. At $7 billion, India's share of the global business currently works out to around 2 per cent. By boosting private participation in the commercial space sector, the country hopes to substantially increase it to $50 billion or 10 per cent by the decade's end.

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Published on: Jul 01, 2022, 3:37 PM IST
Posted by: Tarab Zaidi, Jul 01, 2022, 3:28 PM IST