Start Ups: Giving a Fillip to India’s Space Programme
Sub Title : Centum Electronics Limited, Vyom space, GalaxEye, Kepler Aerospace, Digantra
Issues Details : Vol 16 Issue 3 Jul – Aug 2022
Author : Editoral Team
Page No. : 30
Category : Military Technology
: August 4, 2022
The Government of India believes that that the passion of private players and innovative Start-Ups will augment the role of the Department of Space in protecting India’s interests in Space by developing all-around capabilities in the domains of space transportation, debris management, infrastructure and applications. In consequence, the Government is formulating new policies concerning the sector with the aim of encouraging enthusiastic participation by private players. India has over a hundred Start-Ups in the field. The write up covers a few of them to highlight the work that private players are doing as well as their views on issues relevant to the subject.
Centum Electronics Limited
Centum has established a credible space history with products that have been on-board satellites since 2001
Centum designs, develops and manufactures customized, complex products for Defence and Space customers in India. Centum is a leading industry partner for Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) as well as DRDO labs and Defence PSUs having delivered mission critical electronics on major missile, radar, electronic warfare & satellite applications.
Centum has established a credible space history with products that have been on-board satellites since 2001. Product portfolio has evolved rapidly over the years to address applications in launch vehicles, satellite payloads, satellite bus systems as well as ground equipment. Centum has experience in the realization of small satellites with various Academia/Universities. The state of the art and Space approved infrastructure, along with a skilled and experienced design engineers and technical staff makes Centum a strong partner in space technology.
The modes of engagement with Space Customers have been both in Build to Specification (BTS: Design to manufacturing) and Build to Print (BTP: Only manufacturing) for turnkey deliveries. Centum is one of the leading Industry beneficiaries of the excellent Vendor / Partner development systems that ISRO follows.
Capabilities in Space and Def-Space:
- Strong Design and Engineering Team with relevant domain experience Product Design by Cross Functional Team (CFT) approach including Failure Mode Effect Analysis (FMEA) for all the products designed.
- Electronic Circuit Design (RF, Power, Analog, Digital and mixed signal design), Layout and Packaging Design, Circuit Simulation, Mechanical housing design and Thermal management.
- Product Design at Component, Modules, Subsystems (LRU) and System levels.
- Team is conversant with the specific grade electronic component / material selection for specific applications and also handles special aluminium alloys, Magnesium alloys and titanium fasteners for mechanical housing design for Defence and Space applications.
- Design team has the capability to Design Automatic Test Equipment’s (ATEs) Electrical test jigs, Burn in Jigs and other tools / fixtures required for environmental screening and qualification of the onboard hardware.
Space /Defence-Space Products:
Design, Development and Manufacturing of Flight Hardware for Defence Space applications.
- Quad Digital Receivers
- Onboard Radar Finger Printing Systems
- ELINT Controller
- LTCC based TR Modules in X, C and S Band Frequency range.
- KU Band ALC Channel Amplifiers/SSPAs.
- Reaction wheel commutation electronics module for satellites
- DC-DC converters 3W to 200W for space applications
- Modules for Meteorological payload applications
- Modules like Relay Drivers, Thruster Drivers, Magnetic Torquer Drivers and Multiplexers
- Acceleration sensor electronics for launch vehicle and satellite applications
- Data Acquisition Units for launch vehicle application
Payload Subsystems for Defence – space Application.
- Satellite Bus Management Unit (BMU).
- SAR Payload Electronics.
- Hyper Spectral Payload Electronics
Association with Space Tech Start-ups.
- Realizing Satellite Avionics and Payload subsystems for Earth Observation Satellites.
At Centum, we have over two decades of design and manufacturing capabilities with all infrastructure, technical
resources, and flight heritage in the realization of various sub systems, systems, payloads for satellites, launch vehicles and in building of satellites.
Evolving Indian space sector through technological advancement
Space Sector- An opportunity and its ChallengesIndian Private Space Program is rising to meet the demands and challenges similarly to what happened to IT sector in 90s. The key is to meet the technical challenges to fulfil users’ expectations within timelines and affordability!
Today, there’s no shortage of hype surrounding the commercial space industry. Couple of years back, we crossed an important threshold: For the first time in human history, humans accessed space via a vehicle built and owned not by any government, but by a private corporation (SpaceX) with its sights on affordable in space explorations. It was the first significant step towards building an economy both in space and for space.
Decreasing costs for launch and space hardware in general have encouraged new entrants into space domain, and companies in a variety of industries have already begun leveraging satellite technology and access to space to drive innovation and efficiency in their earthbound products and services.
Today, however, there is reason to think that we may finally be reaching the first stages of a true space-for-space economy. SpaceX’s achievements (in collaboration with NASA), as well as upcoming efforts by Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic to put people in space sustainably and at scale, mark the opening of a new chapter of spaceflight led by private firms.
Indian Space Sector – Potential and Growth
Indian Space sector needs to invest in domains such as spacecraft, manufacturing, spacecraft launch, spacecraft operations, spacecraft sensors & remote sensing, communication systems, Emerging domains – quantum, space-based computing, optical communications, space domain awareness & intelligence.
Major area of space-for-space investment is in building and operating space infrastructure such as reusable engines, reusable vehicles, reusable cargo capsules, to enable India make its own International Space Station and establish a Moon Station.
Vyom Space and Dron Vayu are collectively establishing Space eco-system in India:
India must catch up to the satellite manufacturing and launch capabilities compared to Space Giants like USA and China to develop additional resources to take a bigger piece of market pie from the current 2% to targeted 25% of the global market.
Vyom Space and associated companies and partners will develop, following solutions for the global market worth $ 400 Billion USD per annum.
- Reusable Launch Vehicle with 1st Stage reusability with payload of 4-14 Tonne capability.
- Reusable Astronaut and Cargo Capsule Spacecraft – 20 times reusability
- Sea Launch Platform – First in world to provide permanent capability for launches.
- Integrated Satellite manufacturing complex – Fully integrated with Launch vehicle and platform to provide smooth integration of hardware and software to End Users.
India’s Space Eco-system needs major programs to involve maximum Indian companies. The technical and financial impact of major programs will enable Indian companies to develop and enhance their manufacturing capabilities.
Vyom Space is leading the efforts to develop and integrate several next generation technologies and manufacturing capabilities together. Vyom has established a Design Bureau and manufacturing capabilities in India and abroad to fulfil the programs in a timebound manner. Vyom is working closely with several Indian and foreign government entities to develop solutions to cater their specific requirements and programs.
Seizing the Space-for-Space Opportunity
The opportunity presented by the space-for-space economy is huge but it could easily be missed. To seize this moment, policymakers must provide regulatory and institutional frameworks that will enable the risk-taking and innovation necessary for a decentralized, private-sector-driven space economy. There are three specific policy areas we believe will be especially important:
Financial Facilitation for enabling private sector growth in Space Sector.
ISRO/ NSIL can consider working with Indian private companies in a closer manner, i.e. ISRO can aim to shift to cost-plus contracts; ISRO shoulders the economic risk of investing in space through support by ISRO/ NSIL to private companies with development funds. Because of private companies’ greater flexibility to adjust to technical challenges, this shift will catalyse a burst of activity in the sector.
ISRO/NSIL should plan collective fund-raising possibilities for private companies by providing facilities to raise debt via coupon from Indian and foreign financial institutes for selected programs.
In addition, governments should continue to fill the financial gaps in the still-maturing space-for-space economic ecosystem by funding basic scientific research in support of sending humans to space, and by providing contracts to space start-ups. Some government incentives can help reduce the costs of operating in space for everyone in ways that would be difficult to coordinate independently.
Judiciously implementing government regulation and support.
Secondly, as with most markets, developing a stable space economy will depend on judicious government regulation and support. ISRO and Department of Space via IN-SPACe, must create a regulatory environment that enables Indian commercial activities to thrive. It is a good sign that Indian government is on a path of continued collaboration with industry, but there’s still a long way to go.
Moving beyond geopolitical rivalries for collective gains for partner countries and companies.
While earthly geopolitical rivalries are an on-going process, to conquer Space and give the benefits to the humans on Earth, Moon, Mars and Deep Space, countries must learn to bring together strengths of technology and finances. It will attract private investment when different countries bring their demand and capabilities collectively for common goals.
On earth, private economic activity has long tied together people whose political interest are at odds. The growing space-for-space economy offers exceptional potential to be such a force for unity.
This ‘race for space’ is an important facet of a nation’s strength and global visibility. However, it is a domain which requires synchronised efforts of people, companies, and countries to come together for common goals. Key is Integration of different technologies and solutions to work as system which meets users’ expectations in terms of timelines and costs for best possible solutions and India is strongly emerging as a contender to fulfil these
GalaxEye Space is planning to launch its first satellite around the fourth quarter of 2023
GalaxEye Space was founded in 2020 by a team of 5 students/alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. They have previously worked together and were the founding team of Team Avishkar Hyperloop, a student-run hyperloop team at IIT Madras which qualified as the only Asian Finalist at the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition in 2019. GalaxEye operates on a Data-as-a-Service model, providing high-resolution satellite imagery datasets and value-added services to serve defence, geospatial analytics companies, infrastructure enterprises and government organisations, among others. The use case sectors would include fields like defence, marine industry, insurance, agriculture, civil bodies, disaster management and mining to name a few.
Importance of space-tech in defence
Earth observation, powered by high-resolution satellite imagery, is key to addressing crucial issues the defence sector faces. For years now, satellite technology has been employed in the real-time monitoring of land and marine borders, especially in remote regions, to ensure national security. It is also used to survey the infrastructure damage caused over large geographical areas during conflicts. Intelligence services also use satellite imagery to carry out their functions seamlessly. The applications of satellite imagery in defence are truly endless.
Current techniques and their shortcomings
Satellite imagery is acquired via two major sources – Optical sensors and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sensors. Optical sensors work just like cameras – they capture images of the Earth from space. But this method has significant limitations as optical sensors don’t work at night or when clouds obstruct the view. SAR is an active sensing method that relies on a radar system designed for imagery. The radar emits pulses that ping the Earth and as the pulses return, the satellite recreates an image. Although SAR is not affected by visibility issues, it struggles to track moving objects and has a hard time detailing certain land features like mountains. Moreover, the software required to process SAR data is complex to handle. Presently there are no satellites which can capture both datasets simultaneously, so separate satellites are required to acquire optical and SAR datasets.
How is GalaxEye tackling the shortcomings
GalaxEye Space, a fast-growing player in the Indian deep tech start up scene, aims to resolve the critical shortcomings of current satellite imagery techniques and revolutionise how the space tech industry functions. Image co-registration, the process of geometrically aligning images so that corresponding pixels representing the same objects may be fused, lies at the core of GalaxEye’s novel product offering. GalaxEye’s patent-in-progress multi-fusion sensor ‘Drishti’ will capture both Optical and SAR datasets simultaneously and co-register them using in-house algorithms. This will drastically improve the insights available on a target area, and it also solves the issue of having separate satellites for Optical and SAR imagery. This can be of vital importance to the defence sector.
Currently, GalaxEye is working on system designing and developing its Prototype along with multiple testing rounds. The company is also working on engaging with its potential customers and partners to discuss possibilities of collaboration. It has raised a Pre-Seed round of funding led by Speciale Invest. Moving ahead, GalaxEye Space is planning to launch its first satellite around the fourth quarter of 2023, and eventually scaling it up to a constellation of 15 satellites in the next couple of years.
Pioneering Space based Electronic Warfare through modular rapidly deployable small satellites
In the early days of the space industry, activity was fuelled by national pride and as a demonstration of military capability. In the decades that followed the primary motivation for space activity was commercial exploitation of space through telecommunications and broadcasting satellites. Today, the driving force behind activity in space is of strategic nature. The growing realization that space assets are absolutely necessary for effective intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) has now been established firmly in the defence and aerospace community. The rapid rise of China as a space power in the recent years has further underscored the urgency and importance of maintaining space based electronic warfare as a pillar of national security. India has also made its efforts in building up its SBEW capabilities through EMISAT, RISAT etc. However, for building of a truly world class and effective network of satellites for ISR the Indian industry and start-ups have to play their role in building innovative and future ready technology. Kepler Aerospace is one such company with deep expertise in Space mission management, space subsystem design and EW systems.
Kepler Aerospace was incorporated in 2018, dedicated to small satellite development, defence systems design, manufacturing, and mission management. Kepler Aerospace is the first private Indian firm to support operational ISRO satellites via its global satellite communications ground network. Kepler’s software defined radios and secure data networks have allowed real-time Telemetry and telecommand operations via ISRO’s Satcom command centres. Kiran Sharma, Chief Strategy Officer, Kepler Aerospace adds “What sets us apart is that all of our designs include built-in part replace capability, reducing our reliance on any single imported component. We have a very strong system engineering competency which allows us to meet mission objectives while putting as little a strain on any component as possible. Plus having completely inhouse design and code capability helps us in today’s silicon scarce world.”
Kepler micro space satellite positioning sensor
Kepler has proven its capabilities in RF systems that have been flight tested on drone platforms, aircraft platforms, and ground station networks. One of Kepler’s significant milestones is that its transmitter-receivers are now widely used in ISRO and DRDO, and the company’s products have been widely accepted by the armed forces and government organizations. Its RF systems are now flight-qualified and expect to go into production in a few months. The designs for the satellite constellations are in the advanced stages, with the technology demonstrator slated to be deployed later this year. Once all of the systems in the pipeline are deployed, Kepler will be a dominating player in India’s Electronic Warfare Space. Having core expertise in RF systems gives Kepler the edge in developing completely in-house designed ELINT, SIGINT and COMINT systems. Kepler Aerospace is working on developing a unique constellation of electronic signal support satellites that will play a crucial role in augmenting its ELINT, SIGINT, and COMINT capabilities. These capabilities have proven to be absolutely indispensable in the recent global conflicts including the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Kepler also intends to expand its infrastructure and products in three segments- ground-based, airborne and space-based. On the ground side, its network of ground stations along with its in-house designed transceivers and communication equipment are operational in three nations, with plans to expand to several more as the projects progress.
Kepler Aerospace has undertaken several projects for ISRO, and DRDO, demonstrating its competence and capabilities in the industry. Some of its Ongoing Projects include- Design and implementation of Long Range of encrypted HF TTC systems for Abhyas Drone system for ADE/DRDO, several transceivers for airborne applications, Long Range Soft kill and Hard Kill solutions for CUAS , Quantum Radiation based crypto key generator and many other projects in upcoming defence systems. Kepler is a true embodiment of AtmanirbharBharat , embracing the Prime Minister’s call for self-reliance with full vigour and hopes to continue on the path. Kepler Aerospace’s concept notes and constellation designs have generated an overwhelmingly positive response form the armed forces and intelligence community; it would be exciting to see their vision play out.
Building a two-pronged system to address the challenges of space operations and situational awareness
The space sector is at the precipice of change that is comparable to that of the dot-com boom in the late 90s. At this juncture, the path the space sector takes has unprecedented impact on the future of the humanity. With the democratization of space, and increased satellite applications, space sector is now seen as a great enabler, a tool for global influence and diplomacy in the 21st century. As a result, most spacefaring nations regard space as their fourth operational domain.
The near-Earth environment is undergoing massive transformation; we now have the first gas station and had our first commercial tourists in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). In the next ten years, we will see at least 4 crewed space stations and over 57000 satellites in LEO. Funnelling down to the problem, space debris currently poses a great threat to the future of space operations, accessibility and exploration. Due to our increased dependency on satellites, if left unaddressed, space debris can cause damage to assets in space and to life on earth as we know it. Detecting, cataloguing, and prediction of Resident Space Objects (RSO) is the first step towards solving the problem of orbital debris and having a sustainable and accessible near-Earth orbit.
The term Space Situational Awareness (SSA) refers to a thorough understanding of the space environment including position and characteristics of space objects (natural and man-made) and space weather phenomena. Current technological capabilities allow for the tracking of objects larger than 10 cm; however, the current resolution of ground-based space surveillance systems leaves 96 percent of the approximately 1 million lethal space objects untracked, and even for the tracked 4 percent, complex metrics (object profile and error statistics) are unavailable, rendering the tracking data operationally irrelevant. Thus, the derived SSA is woefully inadequate, putting the $371 billion space economy at risk and costing satellite operators.
The population of active satellites has increased 2.5x since 2019 and is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade. With an increase in the number of satellite applications and the launch of mega constellations of satellites, space situational awareness is critical for long-term sustainable orbit and business. Digantara intends to fill this void by providing comprehensive actionable intelligence for sustainable operations.
Digantara is building a two-pronged system to address the challenges of space operations and situational awareness, through its pioneering Space – Mission Assurance Platform, aka Space – MAP. Space-MAP will serve as a one stop solution for all space operations with products offered through data fusion using multi modal data sets. This platform shall be as powerful and sophisticated as Google Maps, serving as a foundational layer for space operations and research. To that end, Digantara has launched its first mission on June 30th, 2022 taking the first step towards building the space-based infrastructure.
With Space-MAP, three key technologies are seamlessly integrated into a one-stop interactive SSA experience. The first component, Space–based space Climate and Object Tracker (SCOT), is a patented advanced space surveillance payload onboard a satellite constellation that tracks RSOs and space weather. Then comes Orbital Engine (OrEng); a software package that processes SSA data into orbital insights using data fusion from Digantara’s multi – modal SSA data pool which includes data not only from Digantara’s payloads (SCOT) but also from telescopes, active and passive radars, satellite laser ranging systems, GPS, and star trackers. Finally, Space Awareness Data and Analysis ProducTs (Space-ADAPT) is a conglomerate of products built from the data derived out of SCOT and OrEng. With the complete deployment of the constellation, Digantara will reduce the data to decision timeframe facilitating end users with actionable intelligence within a short turnaround time.
By 2025, Digantara will deploy a constellation of SCOT enabled satellites that has the ability to detect objects at 10x higher resolution than current industry with potential to map 20 times more objects. Coupled with the ability to track objects in both sunlit and eclipse periods, Digantara’s sensors will generate the most precise orbital data for the RSOs in Low Earth Orbit.
These datasets coupled with Digantara’s Multi Modal SSA Data Pool, will enable detection, cataloguing and tracking of these said objects leading to the creation of the most comprehensive catalogue of the near-earth environment and objects. Once completely deployed and services enabled, Digantara will be able to offer services to users across the value chain, and through the complete lifecycle of a spacecraft mission ranging from Mission Planning to Mission Operations to End-of-Life de-orbiting, thus building value on the untracked objects.
Digantara is working closely to bring all space stakeholders (legacy and New Space) to the table towards building a sustainable near-Earth environment. Solving the problem necessitates not only a technical solution, but also a policy and legal one.
To that end, Digantara is working with various agencies globally to help better frame policies around space situational awareness. Additionally, to enable sustainable use of space, the company is collaborating with satellite insurance underwriters to build high fidelity risk assessment models that will allow them to insure satellites going to LEO, reducing their liability and aiding to the development of a sustainable near-Earth environment.
Space situational awareness is the basis on which future space missions are going to be designed and operated and Digantara is seeking to facilitate it.
Key player in India’s Space future
With indigenous satellite offerings from India’s growing private Space sector, Dhruva Space looks back on its growth and achievements leading up to its successful maiden mission with ISRO.
In the mid-2010s, India’s private space-tech industry was yet to reach the effervescence it now has. For a long time, the industry was State or Government run; now, thankfully, we observe the Government of India is enabling privatization of the Sector. When Sanjay Nekkanti founded Dhruva Space Private Limited in 2012, the young engineer and entrepreneur knew he was against strong head winds. Later in 2019 when the sector showed signs of receptiveness, he joined forces with Krishna TejaPenamakuru, Abhay Egoor and Chaitanya Dora Surapureddy to push forward Dhruva Space’s full-fledged operations.
A full-stack strategy
As India’s first private space-tech startup, Dhruva Space has proven itself to be a key player in India’s growing private sector, developing indigenous next-generation Space technologies for all segments: Space, launch and ground.
Dhruva Space offers satellites coupled with Earth stations and launch services as an integrated solution or individually as technology solutions to power Space-based applications on Earth and beyond. In the Space segment, Dhruva Space builds satellite platforms and subsystems for Satellites from 0.5-kilogram to up to 300-kilogram class. The subsystems include an on-board computer, an electric power system, solar panels and battery, an attitude determination and control system, and other vital subsystems. The satellite platforms are broadly CubeSats ranging from 0.5U to 16U, as well as NanoSat platforms of 10-kilogram to 30-kilogram classes, and MicroSat platforms of 25-kilogram to 100-kilogram classes, and 75-kilogram to 300-kilogram classes. In 2020, Dhruva Space became the first Indian private company to secure an order for end-to-end design and development of Space-grade solar arrays for satellites for an Indian defence organization.
Ground stations complete the terrestrial leg of the end-to-end space-engineering support. Dhruva Space designs and installs ground stations for clients who want to own their assets, so the company provides aggregated satellite communication services through its own and partner ground station network that continues to expand. To round off the full-stack offering, Dhruva Space’s online software- Integrated Space Operations Command Suite (ISOCS), enables operating ground stations from anywhere in the world to track, command, transfer and visualize satellite data.
Vocal for local
The company runs on a consistent Make-In-India approach, particularly through its various stages of product innovation: research, design, procurement, production and testing. This is fueled by a thriving vendor network supplying integral components. Dhruva Space’s determination to collaborate across the larger Space ecosystem led to its becoming the only Indian private entity with deployers compatible with Indian Space Research Organisation’s launch vehicles – PSLV and SSLV – apart from other international launch vehicles. Dhruva Space’s CubeSat deployer range includes 1U, 3U, 6U, 12U and 16U form factors in multiple configurations to suit the varied launch requirements. These deployers – named Dhruva Space Satellite Orbital Deployers (DSOD) – have been designed and developed in Hyderabad.
That said, Dhruva Space believes in driving innovation through spirited collaborations. For its Industry-Academia collaborative framework, the company has partnered with reputed research institutes. These partnerships help empower faculty in space-engineering fields and encourage students to foray into these fields with greater confidence and the right support structures. In addition to India-based partners, Dhruva Space boasts a wealth of international partnerships such as those with United States based Sidus Space Inc and Germany based DcubeD.
The sky is not the limit
There are three factors contributing to the growth in participation of private firms in the Space sector: policy, access to capital and growth in the general ecosystem to serve markets outside of India. All this is fueled by the tremendous growth in the requirement for satellites globally. India has about 80 space assets while the United States has around 1650 and China has roughly 450. These figures will increase tremendously in the coming years, fueling growth for satellite-enabled services. As the ecosystem bloomed, so did Dhruva Space’s position as a key player in the Space industry. In October 2020, Dhruva Space was awarded the National Startup Award by the Government of India for its efforts in Satellite and Space Technology.
On March 16, 2022, Dhruva Space signed a commercial launch services agreement with NewSpace India Limited; this marked the first step to facilitate future integration and launch services by Dhruva Space using its Satellite Orbital Deployers on ISRO’s PSLV. The company won the Qualcomm Design in India Challenge 2021 on March 17 for its mobile and satellite communications device called ‘Qualcomm- based Module on Ground’ delineating India’s growing demand for satellite services in communications infrastructure.
A dynamic mentorship and partnership over the years with ISRO led up to June 24, when Dhruva Space was among the first private companies to receive authorisation from IN- SPACe ahead of the startup’s DSOD-1U Mission with ISRO’s PSLV C53 launch. This launch mission proved successful with the space-qualification of Dhruva Space’s 1U Satellite Orbital Deployer – a remarkable moment for Nekkanti and team. The mission success will pave the way for Dhruva Space’s imminent testing of its two satellites Thybolt-1 and Thybolt-2 in ISRO’s upcoming PSLV C54 launch mission.