We’re in the midst of a new space race, but this time around, the major players look quite different. China, India, and Japan have entered the arena, and depending on which expert you talk to, India is positioned to take the lead in the coming decade.
Since 2014 and May of this year, India’s space tech startups have garnered a collective $205 million in funding across 33 deals. Already, these investments are paying off – just one year after America’s SpaceX launched the first all-civilian space flight, India celebrated its first private rocket launch of its own in 2022.
If the private sector’s interest weren’t enough, take Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s latest visit to the United States. Following his meeting with President Biden, the White House stated that the two powers discussed the need for “enhanced commercial collaboration between the U.S. and Indian private sectors in the entire value chain of the space economy.”
With Silicon Valley and Washington DC turning their attention toward Indian space tech, here are some of the country’s most promising startups and where they aim to grow from here.
Recognized as India’s first space tech startup, Hyderabad’s Dhruva Space has been building integrated space solutions since 2012. By packaging satellites, launching services, and earth stations into a comprehensive bundle, Dhruva Space is one of the only Indian companies in the field with both satellite and launch interfaces.
In April of this year, Dhruva Space successfully launched an independently constructed Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle complete with its own satellite deployment system. By offering end-to-end space products and services, the company is expected to maintain its lead in India’s space race.
Curious which Indian startup gets the credit for the country’s first private rocket launch? Skyroot, a barely five-year-old company specializing in the construction of space launch vehicles, earned the title in 2022.
As you’d expect from such a speedy rise to the top, Skyroot has caught investors’ eyes with its focus on agility – CEO Kumar Chandana claims they can assemble a launch-ready rocket in just 24-72 hours. Chandana also predicts that the global need for satellites will surpass 30,000 vehicles by the year 2030.
If Skyroot’s estimates are correct, the company may soon become the world’s leading supplier of satellite construction.
Despite the success of Dhruva Space and Skyroot, only one Indian startup can say it’s secured a contract with the Pentagon: Pixxel, an impressive provider of imaging technology that maps patterns on the Earth’s surface you can’t see with standard color vision.
When the development of the high-resolution hyperspectral imaging satellite constellation technology is finalized, clients will be able to identify climate-related navigation issues with ease. It’s also powered by AI, adding an extra layer of timely appeal.
Funding-wise, Dhruva Space is currently aiming to raise $20-25 million by the end of 2024, Skyroot secured $51 million in late 2022, and Pixxel raised $36 million in Series B just last month.