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India’s space tech expects over $300 million in investment in 2023

The Indian space tech ecosystem had a historic year in 2022, with the country recording its first private rocket launch and multiple other satellite launches by private players, capturing not only the subcontinent’s but also the world’s attention.

The industry is expecting to ride this momentum going into 2023, and is expecting around $300 million in private capital investment, multiple orbital launches of rockets apart from satellites, and the implementation of the new India Space Policy, which will further open up the ecosystem.

The year that was
Overall, 2022 was a landmark year for the space tech ecosystem, with the launch of the first Indian-made satellites authorised by IN-SPACe and the establishment of the first privately-owned rocket launchpad by Agnikul Cosmos.

In 2022, the industry witnessed some major milestones, starting off with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), authorising the space conglomerate formed by Larsen and Toubro and HAL to develop 5 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLVs), said Lt Gen AK Bhatt (retd), director general of Indian Space Association (ISpA).

OneWeb also signed a pact with NSIL to launch low-Earth orbit satellites from India, as well as the first satellite broadband licence contract with the Department of Telecommunications.

Skyroot Aerospace: The year was crucial for Hyderabad-based space tech startup Skyroot Aerospace, which launched its rocket Vikram-S to become the first private company to launch into space. The startup also raised $51 million from GIC.

Dhruva Space: Similarly, another Hyderabad-based startup, Dhruva Space, qualified their satellite orbital deployer onboard PSLV C53 in June, and then launched their two Thybolt satellites onboard PSLV C54 in November.

Dhruva Space’s chief operating officer, Krishna Teja Penamkuru, told Moneycontrol that the company expanded its Hyderabad headquarters from roughly 3,000 square feet to almost 10,000 square feet.

Digantara: Bengaluru-based Digantara launched the smallest and first commercial space weather sensors into low earth orbit, according to the company’s CEO, Anirudh Sharma.

The startup is also developing a space situational awareness (SSA) architecture, which refers to tracking objects in orbit and predicting where they will be at any given time. In this regard, Sharma stated that the startup announced the establishment of its ground-based SSA observatory in 2022.

Similarly, SpaceFields has been working on its three solid-stage rocket engines.

In addition, Pixxel, a Bengaluru-based space tech startup, launched three hyperspectral satellites, including a recent satellite named Anand, aboard an ISRO rocket in November 2022.

What the industry plans to do in 2023
Multiple launches are planned for 2023 by Indian space tech startups, with many planning to begin commercial operations.

Skyroot, for example, intends to launch its Vikram-1 launch vehicle into orbit. The Vikram-S launch earlier this year was a sub-orbital launch, which means the rocket reached below the Earth’s orbit.

SpaceFields, based in Bengaluru, intends to test-fire three solid rocket engines that have been in development.

“We are on track for cold firing and hot firing of our three solid rocket engines to qualify various subsystems. We are also exploring areas to deploy our rocket propulsion systems as a pilot,” SpaceFields CEO Apurwa Masook told Moneycontrol.

Dhruva Space, which launched two nanosatellites, is planning to launch a higher class of satellites in 2023.

“We plan to launch our P30 nanosatellite — weighing up to 30 kg — sometime between June and December next year. This platform can be used for different sorts of applications: studying the weather, imaging the planet. It can also be used for interplanetary missions and for monitoring the different atmospheres of different planets,” Sanjay Nekkanti, CEO of Dhruva Space told Moneycontrol.

The company has already received its first commercial contract worth Rs 20 crore to build satellites, according to Chaitanya Dora Surapureddy, the company’s chief financial officer.

Previously, Pixxel’s co-founder Kshitij Khandelwal told Moneycontrol that the company is focusing on getting its constellation of hyperspectral satellites ready for launch by October 2023. This would also be the start of the company’s commercial operations.

Similarly, Agnikul Cosmos is planning a full-scale commercial launch of their rocket Agnibaan in March/April 2023. Bengaluru’s Bellatrix Aerospace also plans to test its propulsion technologies — systems that guide satellites to their destination — in space by 2023.

What lies ahead for the industry
First, the industry is anticipating the announcement of the new India Space Policy in 2023, followed by the Space Activity Bill.

Space Policy: “The new ‘Indian Space Policy’ followed by the Space Activity Bill will be a complete game changer which will cover upstream and downstream activities and will help formulate a vision to bolster the investment climate in the private space sector,” ISpA’s Bhatt said.

However, as the country awaits the Space Act and India Space Policy, the industry anticipates massive demand for satellites in the coming years, fueling growth in satellite-enabled services.

G20: With India taking over the G20 presidency this year, the Indian space tech industry anticipates a significant boost to the ecosystem.

“It’s a boon that India is taking on the year-long Presidency at G20. The focus on climate finance, disaster response and startups will have a huge impact on the Space-based solutions that India can provide for the betterment of lives of people on Earth,” said Dhruva Space founder Sanjay Nekkanti.

PLI scheme: ISpA’s Bhatt also requested that the government implement a production-linked incentive (PLI) for satellite production in 2023. “This will further boost the private space ecosystem, and help encourage new startups to come up,” Bhatt said.

More funding: Skyroot Aerospace’s Pawan Kumar Chandana anticipates a capital infusion of more than $300 million. As of now, India has more than 100 space startups that have raised more than $245.35 million in funding. Moneycontrol

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