Bengaluru-based start-up Pixxel will launch Anand – its third hyper-spectral satellite – into space on November 26. The launch will use the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). This is the first time the company is conducting a launch from Indian society. It has already launched two demo satellites, “Iteration-1” and “Iteration-2,” with the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket off Cape Canaveral in the US. Pixxel focuses on building hyperspectral imaging satellites that can help capture rich and detailed images.
“Anand weighs less than 15 kilograms and can sustain over 150+ wavelengths,” Awais Ahmed, the company’s co-founder, told indianexpress.com. “The satellite can detect gasses, methane leaks, underground oil, pest infestations and crop diseases early on, which existing multispectral satellites simply could not achieve,” he pointed out. Ahmed co-founded the company with his classmate Kshitij Khandelwal in 2019 when the duo were together at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani.
Hyperspectral imaging and what it does
There are three types of imaging possible from space: red-green-blue imaging, multispectral imaging, and hyperspectral imaging. Hyperspectral imaging captures data at hundreds of wavelengths. It gathers and analyzes data from the entire electromagnetic spectrum.
The objective of hyperspectral imaging is to collect the spectrum for each pixel present in an image of a scene. The idea is that this sort of imaging can help discover objects, identify materials in an image, which might not be possible in regular red-green-blue or multispectral imaging.
For example, hyperspectral imaging can give details on nutrients present in the soil. The technology also holds promise for potential use in the environmental sector, as it could be used to detect oil spills and gas leaks.
Pixxel is also working on a plan to process the data obtained through the hyperspectral imaging done by the three satellites. They also plan to reach potential customers in agriculture, oil and gas mining sectors, as well as governments around the world. It also plans to build a software platform that will allow the download of the data provided by the hyperspectral imaging satellites, which can be used for further analysis.
Eventually, the larger goal is to build and put out 24 commercial hyperspectral satellites in space and have a complete constellation of satellites. Currently, Pixxel is testing the first six at its facilities in Bangalore, with a mid-2023 launch timeline. Such a constellation will allow Pixxel to ensure a global coverage for these hyperspectral image satellites.