Bengaluru-headquartered space tech startup Pixxel is all set to launch its third satellite ‘Anand’ on Saturday, 26 November 2022. But the road to getting the satellite off for a launch has been topsy-turvy, with a delay of almost 18 months.
By all means, Anand was supposed to be Pixxel’s first satellite to get a launch instead of ‘Shakuntala’, which was launched earlier this year in April atop SpaceX’s Falcon-9 from Cape Canaveral in the US. Nevertheless, Shakuntala’s launch meant that Pixxel became the first Indian private player to launch a commercial satellite into space.
In a day’s time, Anand is going to be launched into space through an ISRO PSLV rocket from Sriharikota Launch Complex in Andhra Pradesh.
Speaking to BW Businessworld, Awais Ahmed, founder and CEO at Pixxel said, “I am more excited than nervous. We did everything [working] on the satellite until last weekend. Since then, we have been working on getting familiar with operations with all the rehearsals and simulations. We are prepared.”
Anand is a hyperspectral microsatellite that weighs about 15 kilograms and has a total of over 150 wavelengths that will enable it to see the earth in a lot more detail than today’s non-hyperspectral satellites (they feature not more than 10 wavelengths).
The satellite slated to launch on Saturday will be the final of Pixxel’s demo satellites. But despite all of Pixxel’s launches being demo satellites so far, the startup is already seeing revenues come in from the hyperspectral data provided by its previously launched satellites.
“Hyperspectral imagery captures information in hundreds of wavelengths. Across the entire range, visible and infrared, Pixxel’s satellites do not miss even a single gap and capture continuous data in various minute bands,” explained Ahmed. This means that the imagery from Pixxel’s satellites can be used to detect pest infestation, map forest fires, identify soil stress and oil slicks among other things.
With three satellites launched, Pixxel will look to bring together all its learnings to build a commercial satellite constellation. The future satellites from the space tech startup will be heavier with a longer lifetime and feature higher capacity. And Pixxel is already working on the launches planned for 2023.
When BW Businessworld asked Ahmed if a plausible recession would impact Pixxel in any way, he said that the company was generating revenue and had the money to work on the satellites.
“Thankfully, the economic slowdown has not really affected our operations,” he said.
Ahmed also said that the company has not slowed down hiring nor has it pursued any layoffs. “We are actually hiring more people because we are struggling to keep up with the demand for our data,” he added.
Pixxel’s headcount now stands at over 100 and it plans to hire around 50 more people in the next six months.