ISRO progresses from India’s space exploration to tech startups

Category: AI Asia Startup

GalaxEye, a Bengaluru startup, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ISRO’s Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), an autonomous agency under the Department of Space. This partnership marked a transformative chapter not only for GalaxEye but for the entire field of space exploration.

GalaxEye, a pioneering space tech startup, is headquartered in Bangalore, India. Established in 2021 by a group of alumni from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, the company is dedicated to the creation of cutting-edge space technologies. At present, GalaxEye is in the process of constructing the world’s premier multi-sensor imaging satellite for the purpose of earth observation, which is named the Drishti Mission. This mission is designed to deliver high-resolution imagery in all weather conditions for any location worldwide. The technology developed by the company finds use in a variety of sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, soil moisture estimation, and disaster management. The primary objective of GalaxEye is to facilitate better decision-making and enhance operational efficiency for businesses through the use of space technology.

Fifteen years ago, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched its first radar imaging satellite, the RISAT-2. This was a response to the urgent need for greater all-weather surveillance from space after the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008. The RISAT-2 was an earth observation satellite equipped with synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) technology, which allowed it to capture high-resolution images. In the future, new generations will look back at this time in the history of India’s space faring efforts to say how ISRO fostered the country’s fledgling private space tech ecosystem. This, in the long run, will likely be ISRO’s greatest contribution, beyond its own great missions.

ISRO at the forefront of space tech

Over the last 15 years, ISRO’s achievements and milestones are nothing short of breathtaking. Some of the noteworthy ones are Chandrayaan-1, GSAT-4, Mangalyaan, the Mars orbiter, GSAT-9, GSAT-19 and GSAT-29, Chandrayaan-2, PSLV-C51/RISAT-1A, and of course the spectacular success of Chandrayaan-3. Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first mission to the Moon, launched in October 2008, with several major discoveries and data analysis in 2009. It discovered water molecules on the lunar surface. Chandrayaan-2, launched in July 2019, was an attempt at sending a lander to the lunar surface and search for water ice on the Moon’s south pole. The lander, Vikram, lost communication during the landing attempt, but the orbiter continues to study the Moon. Chandrayaan-3 wiped away the disappointment of the previous attempt when it put a lander on the Moon and out trundled a rover, named Pragyan, in a flawless execution in August 2023.

With Gaganyaan, India’s first manned mission to space announced in 2018, ISRO is targeting a crewed flight in 2025, to demonstrate India’s capability to send humans to space and safely return them. In February, four air force pilots were named to be the astronauts on this mission, which will eventually take three of them to an orbit of 400 km and return them after three days. In February 2017, ISRO set a world record by launching 104 satellites in a single mission using the PSLV-C37 rocket. Since then, ISRO has offered its capabilities to multiple customers around the world. A recent notable launch was when the Indian space agency launched 36 satellites for the UK’s OneWeb, a satellite constellation company backed by investors including India’s Bharti Enterprises.

The launch, in March 2023, was the second such successful commercial launch from India for OneWeb. The launch deal was struck via NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), which is another important part of the story of how ISRO’s capabilities are underpinning India’s expansion into global commercial space operations as well. The establishment in March 2019 of NSIL, the commercial arm of ISRO, as a wholly owned Government of India company under the Department of Space, and IN-SPACe in June 2020 created a powerful combination that set the ball rolling on India’s opening up of ISRO to the private sector. This paves the way for private participants to step up their efforts to partner ISRO.

Budapest, Hungary event


Budapest, Hungary

02 - 04 September 2024