Isro tests satellites developed by private sector for the first time
Two satellites by Indian startups—SpaceKidz India and Pixxel (incorporated as Sygyzy)—were tested at the UR Rao Satellite Centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) in Bengaluru. This is a first for the space agency, which so far has only taken help in manufacturing and fabrication of various parts of satellites and rockets from the Indian industry. Isro helped these two companies fix problems with the solar panels on their respective satellites.
Confirming the development, Isro spokesperson Vivek Singh told HT that the two firms have finished the testing already. In the coming months, these two firms will also test their engines at Sriharikota spaceport and Thiruvananthapuram rocket centre.
“There have been several firms that have worked with ISRO in the past, but these firms are into manufacturing satellites. They are almost through with their development. In our next PSLV launch, they could be our co-passengers,” he said.
Earlier Isro had only provided launch facilities to private firms at a cost. In June 2020, Isro chairman K Sivan had announced that the agency will open its labs, testing facilities and quality facilities to private companies so they don’t have to invest in infrastructure. An independent body, Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), was set up to not only to oversee the space activity of the private sector, but also to handhold and share Isro facilities. The decision of the body would be binding on Isro as well.
Just eight months after this announcement was made, Isro is ready to launch commercial satellites in a PSLV mission scheduled for later this month. It will be the first mission wherein satellites by the Indian industry will be commercially launched by Isro.
A satellite designed by students from SpaceKidz India had been launched by Isro as an experiment in January 2019 using the fourth stage of the PSLV—which usually goes to waste—as the platform for the KalamSat.
The PSLV C-51 mission will carry a Brazilian satellite Amazonia-1 under a commercial arrangement made by the NewSpace India limited, the commercial arm of Isro. In addition, the launch vehicle will carry 20 passenger satellites—including one nanosatellite by Isro, the two satellites under testing, and UnitySat, a combination of three satellites designed and built by Jeppiaar Institute of Technology, Sriperumbudur, GH Raisoni College of Engineering, Nagpur and Sri Shakthi Institute of Engineering and Technology, Coimbatore.
Another startup Skyroot is working towards developing a launch vehicle that is likely to be launched by the end of the year. Isro will share their spaceports—the existing one at Sriharikota and the upcoming one in Thoothukudi—with industries for such missions.