Last week, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO or India’s NASA equivalent) launched its third lunar exploration mission with a lander and rover, expected to land near the lunar south pole end of next month. Such has been the progress in India’s rocket science over the decades, primarily driven by the government owned and funded ISRO, it has spawned off some promising investment and start up activity in the private sector.

“Suddenly India has become home to at least 140 registered space-tech start-ups, comprising a local research field that stands to transform the planet’s connection to the final frontier. It’s one of India’s most sought-after sectors for venture capital investors. The start-ups’ growth has been explosive, leaping from five when the pandemic started. And they see a big market to serve. Pawan Kumar Chandana, 32, Skyroot’s chief executive, anticipates a global need for 30,000 satellites to be launched this decade.”

ISRO’s track record in launching satellites at a fraction of the cost has driven India’s competitiveness in the sector: “…With a success rate of almost 95 percent, it has halved the cost of insurance for a satellite — making India one of the most competitive launch sites in the world. And there is money to be made launching equipment into space: That market is worth about $6 billion this year and could triple in value by 2025.

…One of India’s advantages is geopolitical. Two countries that have long offered lower-cost options for launches are Russia and China. But the war in Ukraine has all but ended Russia’s role as a competitor. OneWeb, a British satellite start-up, took a $230 million hit after Russia impounded 36 of its spacecraft in September. OneWeb then turned to India’s ISRO to send its next constellation of satellites into orbit. Likewise, the U.S. government would be more likely to approve any American company’s sending military-grade technology through India than through China.

India’s vendor ecosystem is staggering in size. Decades of doing business with ISRO created about 400 private companies in clusters around Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune and elsewhere, each devoted to building special screws, sealants and other products fit for space. One hundred may collaborate on a single launch.”

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