India’s first Earth-imaging satellite startup Pixxel is planning to launch its first satellite on an Indian rocket, instead of using a Russian one.
For this, the Bengaluru-headquartered company has signed a pact with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) which will help to launch the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket in early 2021.
Pixxel was founded in February 2019 by then 21-year olds Awais Ahmed and Kshitij Khandelwal while still studying in their final year of undergraduate studies at BITS Pilani. Pixxel’s first satellite is scheduled to launch towards the end of this year on a Soyuz rocket.
In June 2019, Pixxel had raised $700K in a pre-seed funding round from Techstars, growX ventures and others.
In August, Pixxel had secured a funding of $5 Mn in a seed round led by Indian venture capital firms Blume Ventures, growX ventures and Lightspeed India.
While confirming the deal with Pixxel, ISRO chairman K Sivan said the space agency was keen to promote more Indian companies to take up space activities.
“We want to help Indian companies to become global leaders,” Sivan told ET.
Meanwhile, Pixxel said the reason behind signing the deal with ISRO is that it gave access to an earlier launch window and it did not want to delay sending its first satellite into orbit any further.
“The Department of Space (DoS) was very keen on us launching from here and it also made more logistical sense for us. It was an opportunity for us to work with our own space organisation and build that relationship,” said Awais Ahmed, cofounder and CEO of Pixxel.
“The deal was recently closed and we will be launching in early 2021 from a PSLV, which is very reliable,” Ahmed added.
This development comes after the Department of Space (DoS) and Chennai-based startup Agnikul Cosmos Private limited had signed a non-disclosure agreement that will allow it to access the ISRO facilities and technical expertise to build its rocket.
Earlier, Pixxel had signed an agreement with Momentus Inc to launch its second satellite into orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The deal with Momentus was still on even as it will look to continue working with ISRO for future launches as well, Ahmed added.