Hyderabad firm eyes history with first private Indian satellite

Deccan Chronicle.  | S. Umamaheshwar


Hyderabad-based company eyes bigger space market

Dhruva Space promoters Sanjay Nekkanti, Krishna Teja Penamakuru, Abhay Egoor and Chaitanya Dora Surapureddy. (By Arrangement)

HYDERABAD: If things go as scheduled on Saturday, Hyderabad-based Dhruva Space will become the first privately-owned Indian company in the country to build a satellite by itself. Its two nanosatellites, Thybolt-1 and Thybolt-2, are to be launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation at 11.56 am on Saturday.

Hours before launch, the atmosphere at Dhruva Space's office in Begumpet, Hyderabad, was a mix of excitement, nervousness, tension and happiness. Just last week, another city-based spacetech start-up, Skyroot Aerospace, had launched India’s first private rocket.

Thybolt-1 and Thybolt-2 can be used for low data rate communication.

Low data rate communication could be used for connecting with remote locations for soil monitoring and crop quality on farms, detection and instant notification of leaks on pipelines, availability of parking spaces, supply chain monitoring, forest fire detection to name a few.

"Isro has made great strides in the space sector. However, we do not have organisations that make satellites commercially," said Chaitanya Dora Surapureddy, a member of the founding team at Dhruva Space.

"We have built our satellites at a cost which is multiple times cheaper than those built in the western countries. This would help India get a bigger pie in the global space market," he said.

India has two per cent share in the $350-billion global space industry, which is expected to surge to over $1 trillion by 2040.

While India has about 80 space assets, the United States has around 1,650 and China has roughly 450. "Commercially-viable satellite launches can help India to have a network of satellites similar to Starlink," Surapureddy said, referring to Tesla founder Elon Musk’s chain of satellites that provide internet services.

Dhruva Space was founded by Sanjay Nekkanti in 2012. He was one of the students of seven engineering colleges from Hyderabad and Bengaluru who built StudSat that was launched in 2010. In 2019, he was joined by his college-time friends Krishna Teja Penamakuru, Abhay Egoor and Surapureddy.

"There is a difference between a satellite built by a group of students, and a private company like ours. For students, commercialisation is not the motive, whereas a private company would precisely aim for that and bring in indigenisation through a sustainable business model," Surapureddy said.

Another Bengaluru-based startup Pixxel, will be sending its third satellite on Saturday on PSLV. However, Pixxel’s will be a US satellite being launched by Isro, while Dhruva Space satellites will bear the Indian flag.