Startups in Space: India's New Trajectory After Chandrayaan-3

The size of the global space market, which reached $469 billion in 2021, is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2040 according to WEF. The successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 is poised to initiate a transformative shift within the Indian space sector.

Sonu Vivek
New Update

The message "India, I reached my destination, and you too!" was relayed by Chandrayaan-3 after its successful soft-landing on the moon marking a landmark moment in the history of India's space program. 

India's space program officially began with the establishment of the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) on August 15, 1962. The committee was later renamed the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on August 15, 1969. ISRO was formed under the leadership of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, who is often regarded as the father of the Indian space program. Since its inception, ISRO has made significant advancements in space technology, including the development of indigenous satellites, launch vehicles, and various space missions. Let's delve deep to understand the importance of the Chandrayaan Mission and how the soft landing of Chandrayaan-3 opens up new doors for startups working in space tech. 

What makes the soft landing of Chandrayaan-3 special? 

Many countries and private companies are competing to land a spacecraft safely on the moon. Just recently, Russia's LUNA-25 crashed during its attempt. In April, a spacecraft from a Japanese company also crashed while trying to land on the moon. Back in 2019, an Israeli nonprofit had a similar goal, but their spacecraft was destroyed when it hit the moon. 

The uniqueness of Chandrayaan-3's soft landing lies in the fact that no nation has previously achieved a successful soft landing at the relatively uncharted south pole of the Moon. While the United States, China, and the USSR have made soft landing attempts within the Moon's equatorial region, aiming for the southern pole presents challenges due to its rugged landscape. India holds the distinction of being the pioneer in accomplishing a triumphant soft landing on the Moon's southern pole, marking a significant advancement in its space odyssey.

What is the importance of the Chandrayaan-3 soft-landing?

The space business is growing at a phenomenal speed: the size of the global space market, which reached $469 billion in 2021, is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2040 according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). The successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 is poised to initiate a transformative shift within the Indian space sector, particularly for private entities and startups as the sector is projected to increase over the next five years to reach USD 50 billion in the country. 

The landing first on the moon's south pole establishes India as one of the front runners in the space programs and will make it a hot spot for the space sector of the world. This will present an opportunity for home-grown space startups to ride the wave and encash on the opportunity. 

What will help the in-house space startups to build on the platform given by the landing of Chandryaan-3 is the Indian Space Policy which was introduced in April earlier this year. 

Historically, ISRO solely defined India's space industry. Private sector involvement was limited to adhering to ISRO's designs and specifications. The Indian Space Policy 2023 introduces plans to allow private enterprises to engage in end-to-end activities, encompassing satellite launch, rocket deployment, and Earth station operations.

India's space economy constitutes a small fraction of the global market (roughly USD 7 billion) despite being a spacefaring nation. Private sector engagement can help harness the sector's full potential, fostering significant economic growth and job creation. Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic have revolutionized space by reducing costs and timelines. However, in India, private sector participation has been limited to supporting governmental initiatives. Overreliance on foreign sources for data procurement raises security concerns. The introduction of private players could foster self-sufficiency and reduce economic outflows. 

Private sector involvement is crucial for unlocking India's technological potential and promoting entrepreneurship, potentially leading to a thriving space industry and the creation of numerous jobs. The Indian Space Policy introduces entities like InSPACe, New Space India Limited (NSIL), and emphasizes the role of the Department of Space. It also outlines ISRO's transition towards R&D, opening opportunities for the private sector. 

Non-Governmental Entities (NGEs) which encompass the private sector, are now authorized to engage in various space activities, including space object operation, ground-based assets, communication, remote sensing, and more.

Which are the leading startups in the Indian space industry? 

Google invested $36 million in space startup Pixxel, based in Bengaluru (Bangalore). This investment was important as it was the first big one in India's space industry since the government allowed private companies to be a bigger part of it in April. India is creating a good environment for space startups, and startups like Skyroot, SatSure, Dhruva, and Bellatrix, could very well be the next SpaceX.  

What next for Chandrayaan-3?

ISRO scientists have announced their intention to conduct a two-week series of experiments aimed at gaining deeper insights into the composition of lunar soil and rocks. The lunar south pole is believed to harbor deposits of ice and minerals. India aims to take the lead in exploring the South Pole region, which has remained unexplored by previous missions. The payloads aboard the rover will perform both quantitative and qualitative elemental analyses. These analyses will help determine the chemical composition of the lunar surface and deduce its mineralogical makeup, thereby enhancing our understanding of the moon's terrain.

The successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 heralds a new chapter in India's space exploration narrative. The Indian Space Policy 2023's emphasis on private sector participation offers a platform for startups and private entities to actively contribute to the country's space odyssey, opening doors to innovation, economic growth, and enhanced global competitiveness.