To boldly go where no man has gone before — sounds familiar? 57 years ago, Star Trek’s Captain James T Kirk immortalised mankind’s quest to explore the vast unknown.
And here we are now in 2023, having explored so much more than we could have hoped for, and yet there’s so much more to go.
India has more than ever to be proud of in this domain — most recently for its historic lunar expedition Chandrayaan-3.
And it’s not the only mission to cross this threshold. The country is already home to numerous private players and startups that are making waves when it comes to exploring that final frontier.
Here’s our list of five:
Space Kidz: In 2017, a team of students with Space Kidz created history when they designed and launched Kalamsat V2, the ‘world’s lightest satellite’.
The startup, founded by Dr Srimathy Kesan, works with many such children from high schools and colleges who have an unending passion to explore and understand space, and trains them to work on helium balloons and satellites.
Bellatrix Aerospace: This Bengaluru-based startup develops propulsion systems and orbital launch vehicles for satellites.
The team has innovated ‘Microwave Plasma Thrusters’ (MPT) – an electric propulsion system that uses water as a propellant as opposed to chemical or any kind of fuel.
This innovation makes the process cost as well as environment friendly. Using water saves about 250 kg of fuel for a 3.5-tonne satellite. The company helps ISRO set up satellites in a cheap and eco-friendly manner.
Digitantra: Thousands of defunct satellites and millions of fast-moving debris particles litter space around the Earth. They are a constant threat to our satellites.
This IISc-incubated startup has developed a patented debris tracker that consists of a network of 40 nanosatellites that can detect and monitor even fragments as tiny as 1 cm.
Each nanosatellite has a laser detector that works like a radar. It helps locate the debris particles. Satellites can use this database to steer safely through space and avoid mishaps.
Agnikul Cosmos: This Chennai-based startup builds low-cost rockets using 3D technology for commercial space missions. It makes rockets that are at least six times cheaper than conventionally constructed ones and that too in much less time.
“Today, if you have to go to space, you are one person so you need to take a train. You have to wait for the train to fill up. What we are trying to do is build a cab,” says founder Srinath Ravichandran.
Pixxel: This Bengaluru-based startup is using hyperspectral imaging satellites to combat climate change. These satellites are capable of capturing images of every location on the Earth every day.
These satellites can detect the amount of pollutants in the atmosphere, measure water pollution, identify gas leaks, and assess the health of forests and soil.
Last year, the company launched a hyperspectral satellite ‘Anand’ on an ISRO PSLV-C54 rocket. The satellite views the Earth in detail and provides environmental data through more than 150 wavelengths.