Hyderabad Space Company on PSLV C53 launch on June 30

M Somasekhar
M Somasekhar

For the Hyderabad-based, space startup, Dhruva Space, the June 30 mission of the PSLV C53 of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), will be an important milestone. The space orbital deployer (DSOD 1U), developed indigenously by it will be tested and validated.

It will also be the first mission with private sector companies under the aegis of the Indian Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), the independent company created under the Union Department of Space (DoS).

The launch is scheduled to lift off at 1800 hrs on Thursday from the second launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. The PSLV C53 rocket is carrying 3 commercial satellites from Singapore. The DS-EO satellite weighs 365 kgs; the NeuSAR, a 155 kg satellite and the third is a small, 2.8 kg Scoob-1 of the Nanyang Technological University, according to the ISRO.

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Along with the Dhruva Space Satellite Orbital Deployer – (DSOD 1U), a technology demonstration payload, the Bengaluru-based startup, Digantara’s ROBust Integrating Proton Fluence Meter (ROBI), a Proton dosimeter payload, will also be flight tested on the PSLV flight, which will be its 55th.

The PSLV C53 mission follows the June 10 inauguration of IN-SPACe Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Headquartered in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, the entity permits, regulates, promotes, hand-holds, monitors and supervises space activities of Non-Governmental Private Entities (NGEs). It is chaired by Pawan Kumar Goenka, who from the Mahindra Group has also been given considerable freedom in decision making.

The first two launch Authorisations issued by IN-SPACe is an important milestone and marks the beginning of private space sector launches in India,” said Goenka. While Digantara will launch a weather satellite which will be used for weather monitoring from space using their patented technology Dhruva Space will test its Satellite deployer technology which in future can be deployed for international customers too.

The Dhruva role

Started in 2012, Dhruva Space is the first, exclusively space focussed, startup in the country, says Sanjay Nekkanti, CEO. The company is building satellites-cubesats, micro and nano versions for the commercial, government and academic markets. It provides full stack, space engineering solutions across launch, space and ground segments.

The startup had signed an agreement for launch services with the New Space India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of the ISRO sometime ago. As part of it, the company will be using the PSLV Orbital Experimental Module (POEM), which allows in-orbit experiments. In the coming mission the DSOD-1U will be sitting on the platform called POEM, which is also the fourth and final stage of separation in the Rocket launcher.

Dhruva Space is the first private sector company in Asia to develop such a Orbital Deployer. It’s success will help in placing the company’s developed range of small satellites Thybolt-1 & 2 in the next PSLV C54 mission in the near future. It will also equip the company to take up service contracts from international customers.

The test run of the Orbital Deployer was done in December 2021 in microgravity or zero gravity flight, Sanjay explained. Integration of the Spacecraft with the Launch Vehicle is a critical component in the overall launch of Satellites.

The mission will demonstrate the in-house developed CubeSat Deployers ahead of the launch of our Satellite Missions, Thybolt-1 and Thybolt-2, which are booked for the PSLV C54 launch Mission. This will also enable the company to support international clients with CubeSat Deployers, Integration and Launch Services, he added.

In his 90th Mann Ki Baat, the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi mentioned about Dhruva, which he said was working on high technology solar panels for satellite deployer and satellites. He also said Tanveer Ahmed of Digantara was striving hard to map waste from space. The PM also mention about two more start-ups – Agnikul and Skyroot Aerospace from Chennai and Hyderabad which are developing launch vehicles that will take small payloads into space.

Dhruva Space has been growing steadily over the last decade of its existence. The company signed its first major deal to build a satellite called HAMSAT-2 for the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT) around 2014.

To fund its growing activities the company raised about Rs 270 million. The latest being the Rs 22 crore from Indian Angels Network Fund and Blue Ashva Capital in October 2021. To accelerate developments, it has gone in for tie ups. In November 2020, Dhruva Space entered into an agreement with Skyroot Aerospace. In the same year it entered into a MoU with Florida-based Sidus Space to collaborate and catalyse the design, development, and commercialisation of new space technologies and services.

In the last two years, the Indian space sector has been witnessing lot of activity with the Government throwing it open to the private sector. The reforms in the Space Policy too have given an impetus to both startups and large companies like L&T, Ambani’s and others to enter the lucrative but high investment and risky arena.

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