ISRO to concentrate on science experiments, first human space flight for 2023.
It is expected that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will shift its research and development efforts to science in 2023, with specific projects to Sun (Aditya) as well as the Moon (Chandrayaan-3) while the startup market is poised to explode in the space applications sector.
The coming year will witness a series of tests on India’s first human space flight Gaganyaan. Gaganyaan with the first mission that is uncrewed expected to take place in the final quarter of 2023, aimed at testing the effectiveness of the launch vehicle that is human-rated and orbital module propulsion system, as well as recovery operations.
ISRO will also be conducting the initial runway landing exercise (RLV-LEX) for the launch vehicle that is reusable early next year at the Aeronautical Test Range in Karnataka’s Chitradurga The Union Minister of State within the Cabinet of the Prime Minister Jitendra Singh told Parliament this month.
Indian startups who have made their debut through the suborbital flight launched by Skyroot Aerospace’s Vikram S rocket, the first launched by an private company, along with the launch of the hyperspectral satellites from Pixxel Shakuntala and Anand, both with SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket in April, and Anand aboard ISRO’s PSLV in November.
Skyroot Aerospace, which launched India’s first privately-developed rocket on November 1, is planning to launch a satellite for clients into orbit by the end of next year and Agnikula Cool Cosmos, a startup that is based on the IIT-Madras campus, has planned the flight test of its highly customizable Agnibaan rocket.
“We are developing six commercial hyperspectral imagery satellites, which will be ready for launch next year,” Awais Ahmed, Pixxel Co Founder And CEO, had revealed to PTI. Ahmed stated that a lot of rocket companies from around the world will have its first orbital rocket launches coming to realization, leading to an upcoming space-related Game of Thrones as they compete for the same group of customers who will send satellites to space.
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startups are focusing on the massive market for space-related products in India which was once the exclusive area of ISRO creating their own niche in the area of earth imaging creating rockets that launch small satellites, conceiving smaller fuels for satellites and even preparing to transport passengers on space trips.
“The potential for innovative space applications is immense, especially if established aerospace companies form partnerships with businesses that traditionally haven’t ventured into orbit, e.g. pharmaceutical, agriculture companies,” stated Chaitanya Dora Surapureddy the Chief Financial Officer of DhruvaSpace.
DhruvaSpace created two satellites Thybault 1 and 2 onboard the PSLV mission of ISRO’s C-54 mission, which proved that they can carry out amateur satellite communications that can aid in the operation of ham radio. Surapureddy added that Dhruva Space has already bagged its first commercial contract of around 20 crore for the construction of satellites.
“The number of space startups in India has already crossed 100 and these startups have raised funding of more than $245.35 million,” said Lieutenant Gen A K Bhatt (retd. ), Director General, Indian Space Association (ISpA).
Agnikul has also inaugurated the first rocket launchpad, as well as its first mission control center in ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.
By 2022 the sector reached a major milestone when NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) authorized the space conglomerate founded with Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited a Rs 860 crore contract for construction of the the next five Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLVs). OneWeb also signed up for ISRO’s launch vehicle to place 36 satellites in low earth orbit starting from Sriharikota.
Another launch of 36 satellites is planned for next year. The OneWeb contract with ISRO is believed to be the result of an aggressive bidding process by the Indians following the Ukraine conflict that wiped the Russian capability to launch spacecraft out of the market.
Chaitanya Giri, a consultant in space who works for the Research and Information System for Developing Countries, likens the ferocity within the Indian space industry to one that was displayed through Sourav Ganguly’s Cricket team.
“Our earlier approach was like the Mohammad Azharuddin-led cricket team – very mellow and gentlemanly. The new-found aggression is because of India’s rising geopolitical stature. Also, the Russian market has become a no-go due to the Ukraine conflict. So is the Chinese market. Now, it is Advantage India,” Giri said to PTI.
He added that Indian startups should also compete for international contracts, and do not look to ISRO as a business partner. “ISRO is not an entity that will sustain business for them. Indian space start-ups, MSMEs and big corporations will have to strike business arrangements amongst each other. These B-2-B arrangements need to grow,” Giri said.