“Earth is the cradle of Humanity , but one cannot live in a cradle forever.” -Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
A hundred years ago in 1911, the father of modern cosmonautics Konstantin Tsiolkovsky remarked in a letter written to his friend about how humanity will one day explore and conquer the solar space. More than a 100 years have passed and Konstantin has been proven right but alas ! we have only been to the moon and back, no further !
This is all set to change in this decade as the United States has emerged as incubation hub for space startups like SpaceX and Blue Origin who intend to setup permanent human settlements on other planets. The new space race is led by private space startups, under the experienced leadership of established entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
Companies That Made Their Mark In The Space Industry.
The first privately funded rocket to achieve space flight was Conestoga 1, which was launched by Space Services Inc. on a suborbital flight to 309km altitude on 9th September, 1982.
By 1984 President Ronal Regan issued out the Commercial Space Launch Act, which encouraged the creation of private spaceflight companies.
By 2000, Russian private space tech company MirCorp made the first manned trip to space that was not government funded. This was just the beginning!
It was a commercial space company created in 1999 by space entrepreneurs and involving the Russian space program that successfully undertook a number of firsts in the business of space exploration by using the aging Russian space station Mir as a commercial platform. Its actions were highly controversial as it created a roadblock to the planned International Space Station in creating a viable, low cost alternative.
The company achieved the following:
• First commercial lease agreement for orbiting manned space station (December 1999)
• First privately funded manned expedition to a space station.
• First privately funded cargo resupply mission in space (April 27, 2000)
• First privately funded spacewalk (May 12, 2000)
• First contract for Space Tourist (Dennis Tito, June 19, 2000)
2) Space Adventures-
It is an American space tourism company founded in 1998 by Eric C. Anderson. As of 2010, offerings include zero-gravity atmospheric flights, orbital spaceflights (with the option to participate in a spavcewalk), and other spaceflight-related experiences including cosmonaut training, spacewalk training, and launch tours. Plans announced thus far include sub-orbital and lunar spaceflights.
As of October 2009, seven clients have participated in the orbital spaceflight program with Space Adventures, including one person who took two separate trips to space.
How can we talk about private Space Companies and not talk about SpaceX. From making rockets reusable, and Mars seem possible. Already the world’s most high-profile commercial spaceflight company, SpaceX continues to demonstrate its technical bona fides, racking up recent milestones as historic as they are diverse.
Along with fielding a more muscular version of the workhorse Falcon 9 rocket (with engines that are 50% more powerful than their predecessors), the company conducted a series of test flights of its Grasshopper rocket, which travelled as high as 1,066 feet in June 2013 before depositing itself back on the launchpad, as opposed to dumping in the ocean. SpaceX flies fast, cheap, and always in control, making founder and CEO Elon Musk’s plan to eventually establish a permanent, 80,000-person Martian colony, seem less like a pipe dream, and more like the inevitable.
Sierra Nevada Corp, Richard Branson’s VIRGIN GALACTIC (developing airplane-rocket), Yuri Milner’s PLANET (earth imaging satellites) have also emerged as finest spacecraft builders. Besides these, there are initiatives by Mark Zuckerberg (Breakthrough Starshot), Larry Page (Planetary Resources), Bill Gates (Kymeta), Paul Allen (Stratolaunch) which are still in development.
Valuation of this Industry-
For years, some of the world’s richest entrepreneurs have been investing in space exploration, hoping to become industry leaders in the growing commercial market and what it is set to achieve. There has been a record investment of more than 3.9 billion dollars that were made by as many as 120 venture capitalist firms into some private space companies in the last year. The space industry is set to be worth $1 trillion by 2040.
Indian Private Space Industry-
With the private space industries developing at the fastest possible rate in other countries, it’s high time that India’s commercial space enterprises grew out of the ISRO’s towering shadow whose contract doles provide vital sustenance to may start-ups. There is an increasing commercialised side of ISRO which has now taken up the form of NewSpace India Ltd.
In the last few years India has witnessed a boom and more than a dozen space focussed start-ups have emerged. Bangalore in India has emerged as India’s space start-ups hub.
Few of India’s notable Space Start-Ups:
1) Team Indus
– is a Bangalore based startup led by Rahul Narayan and is the only Indian team participating in the Google Lunar X Prize mission. The company raised Rs 9 Crore until mid 2015 from a clutch of investors . The company has built a lunar rover and expected to launch in the third quarter of 2016 to win the Google Lunar X Prize.
– Founded by Sushmita Mohanty , the company claims to be India’s first private space firm. The company currently offers launch advisory and consulting services.
3) Dhruva Space
– A new entrant to this league, the firm was founded by Narayan Prasad and Sanjay Nekkanti in 2012. The team at Dhruva space is currently developing an indigenous small satellite platform.
– Founded at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) , the team of ARDL comprises of Sidhant Dhall, Triyambak Tripathy, Gaurav Achha and Ayush Patawari. The company currently fabricates Mini CANSAT modules and other related space hardware.
– Another Space Startup with it’s roots in IISc is Astrome, which has Prasad HL and Neha Satak as it’s founder. The startup is fairly new to this league and aims to develop products and services which aid in space exploration.
6) MANASTU Space
– founded by Tushar Jadhav (a former DRDO scientist) , Ashtesh Kumar (Technological Leader Head, Electrical Systems) and Pratham ui IIT Bombay’s student) in 2016 comes with greener and safer approach in manufacturing the satellites. Manastu’s engines uses less indigenous toxic fuel, and can provide an impulse for 275 seconds, making it 25 percent more productive as it consumes 25 percent less fuel, and promises a life span of five years for the satellites in orbit. At present, the prototype is under testing at its laboratory in Mumbai and at the Shell Oil and Gas campus at Bengaluru.
What the future holds for this Industry-
The future of commercial space flight definitely seems promising, thanks to the entry of big commercial giants and several other huge investors.
This would not just improve or bring about possibilities of making space travel easy, but also help in improving research of the universe, resource mining as well as bringing other insightful information to the forefront.
Despite the challenges posed by space tourism, it is crystal clear that in the future, commercial space flight will be a big thing and it can definitely be the ticket to us knowing more about the outer space.
Written by Subhadeep Bose, Kaushikee Bannerjee, Sarthak Mazumder
Edited by Sohini Ghosh, Dibyajyoti Ghosh