Indian Aerospace Startups – The Next Frontier in Global Space Technology

Space technology goes beyond space shuttles and exploring space. It also encompasses tools and systems designed for communication and scientific study beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Space technology can be leveraged in defence, agriculture, entertainment, transportation, communication and maritime sectors.

India, too, has been making advances in materials, propulsion and artificial intelligence to drive innovations and reach new frontiers in space exploration. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has completed missions such as Mangalyaan, Chandrayaan 1, 2 and 3, innovated a navigation satellite system and built a polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) and reusable launch vehicle (RLV). Through global collaborations and ISRO’s commercial arm, New Space India Ltd., (NSIL), India’s space economy has achieved a valuation of USD 8 billion and is expected to touch USD 40 billion by 2024, which already accounts for two per cent of the global space economy.

The Indian government has introduced the Indian Space Policy (ISP) 2023, which allows private sector participation in the space sector, with the aim of capturing 9% of the global space market share by 2030. The policy initiative is aimed at fostering opportunities for private enterprises and startups.

In 2022, investors poured USD 119 million into Indian space startups, up from a total of just USD 38 million in all the years up to 2017. The investments are meagre when the global space industry is pegged at over USD 360 billion. The Indian startup ecosystem in this field has an opportunity to identify market gaps and contribute to India’s space ambitions.

The Indian Space Policy 2023 Revolutionising Spacetech

With private-sector partnerships, the policy initiative aims to foster advancements in technology developments in satellite-based services and products, PSLV and SSLV production and other satellite-building systems and subsystems. It allows private enterprises to build along with ISRO and go beyond.

The ISP lets private enterprises and startups carry India’s end-to-end activities to cater to domestic and global demands. Under the policy, the 400 private aerospace startups, SMEs and conglomerates will now be permitted to engage in the establishment and operation of space objects, ground-based assets and related services, such as communication, remote sensing and navigation.

The private companies will have the flexibility to own, procure and lease satellites, offer communication services worldwide and disseminate remote sensing data. They can also design and operate launch vehicles, establish their space infrastructure, make filings with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and even engage in the commercial recovery of asteroid resources.

The change not only marks a significant shift in India’s approach to space exploration but it allows public and private sector sources to procure customised solutions for specific requirements. It boosts research and development and allows aerospace startups to contribute to milestones like Chandrayaan-3.

Offering Spacetech Launch Services at Competitive Rates

In 2020, India’s satellite launch services market was valued at USD 567.4 million. By 2025, it is anticipated that the sector will achieve a valuation of USD 1.46 billion. This remarkable growth in the industry can be attributed to India’s corporate sector’s ability to provide cost-effective and dependable manufacturing and support services.

Several key players in this sector, including Larsen and Toubro (L&T), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Paras Defence and Space Technologies, Godrej Aerospace, MTAR Technologies, Ananth Technologies, Sri Venkateswara Aerospace, Mishra Dhatu Nigam Ltd, and Himson Industrial Ceramic, have contributed significantly to space missions.

For the Chandrayan 3 mission, Larsen and Toubro (L&T) supplied various spacecraft components, including the heat shield, propulsion system, and landing gear.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was responsible for manufacturing the Vikram lander, while Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) supplied the spacecraft’s power system, and Paras Defence and Space Technologies provided the navigation system.

Godrej Aerospace played a crucial role in developing the lander’s heat shield and the rover’s landing gear, and MTAR Technologies manufactured several components, including the lander’s propulsion system and the rover’s navigation system. Ananth Technologies contributed by developing various sensors, such as the lander’s camera and the rover’s proximity sensor. Sri

Venkateswara Aerospace manufactured various structural parts, while Mishra Dhatu Nigam Ltd supplied critical alloys. Himson Industrial Ceramic supplied components designed to safeguard equipment during the Chandrayaan-3 mission from extreme temperatures.

While the established players have been instrumental in India’s lunar exploration endeavours, T-Hub incubated startups such as Skyroot Aerospace and other emerging Indian aerospace startups are pushing the boundaries by working on advanced space launch vehicle designs. Indian corporates have much to gain working closely with startups working on the cutting edge of space travel.

To further support the growth of space launch services, the government has exempted private organizations from Goods and Service Taxes (GST), enabling them to offer competitive rates for launching satellites into orbit.

Increasing demand for satellite services

Satellite services play a crucial role in advancing communication, navigation, and the dissemination of information both in India and abroad. The ISRO’s impressive feat with Chandrayaan-3 and repeated successful launch of heavy payloads make India an attractive destination for satellite services.

This presents an opportunity for Indian aerospace startups like Agnikul, Pixxel, Bellatrix Aerospace, Kawa Space and others to make their mark. The companies are developing agile and dependable solutions such as small- and medium-sized satellites, electric propulsion systems, high-performance rocket engines, and Earth-imaging satellites, among other satellite services.

Entering into international collaborations

Future-looking enterprises engage closely with startups for technology transfer and solutions to their problem statements. Some corporates like Collins Aerospace have partnered with innovation hubs like T-Hub to work closely with small- and medium-sized enterprises. The aim is to facilitate technological innovations. T-Hub has also partnered with Boeing and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and has launched talent development, innovation and entrepreneurship-building programs to support startups wanting to make a mark in the aerospace sector.

The French satellite operation and global connectivity provider, Kineis, for instance, is working with Hyderabad-based Dhruva Space to develop space and ground infrastructure.

These corporations are utilizing the space-tech market in India and leveraging opportunities in satellite services, research and development, robotics, artificial intelligence, and software development. Emerging areas for aerospace startups also encompass space tourism and the commercial utilization of space resources.

The collective efforts of spacetech startups, with the support of government agencies, incubators, and accelerators, are effectively disrupting established norms. This concerted endeavour positions India as an innovative, competitive, and collaborative player on the global stage in the realm of space exploration and related activities

The Indian space sector is undergoing a transformative shift, and T-Hub as a startup accelerator is playing a pivotal role in spurring innovation and collaboration within the aerospace innovation ecosystem. For more information on how T-Hub is contributing to the growth of Indian aerospace startups and fostering collaboration in the space-tech sector, please feel free to contact us.

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