At the Bengaluru Space Expo, VSSC Director Dr S Unnikrishnan said they were trying to enable private space companies with the technology to launch small satellites. “In the next 10 years, around 17,000 satellites are expected to be launched globally. In 2021, 94 percent of the satellites launched were small satellites.”
As satellites now have applications in many areas like communications and agriculture, the private space sector has been producing smaller, cheaper satellites for these purposes. These satellites are unlike conventional satellites that are heavy and costly. So, the technology needed to launch them needs to be developed too.
“Space companies should be able to launch satellites in a fast, cost-effective manner as per their clients’ requirements,” Nair said.
VSSC has been handholding startups like Space Machines Company, Skyroot Aerospace and Bellatrix to fine tune launch technologies. Skyroot Aerospace, for example, is developing a launch vehicle that is lightweight but can carry upto 100 kg of payload. Naga Bharath Daka, co-founder of the company, said, “Launch vehicles that allow low-cost access to space is important because it’s the key enabler for all other parts of the industry. There is a lot of latent demand for space-based solutions, but this is invisible now as accessing space is prohibitively expensive.” Bellatrix, meanwhile, is trying to build propulsion systems powered by electricity instead of conventional fuel, to bring down costs.
Rajat Kulshrestha, co-founder of Spaces Machines, said, “For a long time, space transport was all about launch. But now we think about last-mile access for different customers.”
Although ISRO had developed its SSLV (Small Satellite Launch Vehicle) for the use of private companies, its launch this August was not fully successful.
SS Vinod, Project Director of SSLV, said, “ISRO already has launch capability, but we need to have launches that are low-cost, with low turnaround time, and reliability. SSLV costs only one-sixth that of PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, which is used for ISRO’s conventional launches).”