How GalaxEye Is Looking To Put India On Global Spacetech Map

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GalaxEye wants to empower insurance companies with its satellite data and images so that the latter can better scrutinise the damage from natural disasters and other man-made crises on the insurance claimants

Equipped with its Drishti sensors, which GalaxEye has built in-house and is upgrading continuously, the startup aims to launch its first-ever satellite in space in the second quarter of FY24

The startup is looking to raise an additional $15 Mn-$25 Mn in 2023 to send its satellite to Earth’s orbit

With the launch of the country’s first private rocket in space, 2022 became a landmark year for the Indian spacetech ecosystem. As a result, the segment has now started to witness greater participation from new-age tech startups.

While Dhruva Space, Agnikul Cosmos, and Pixxel were some of the pioneering spacetech startups in the country, even before the government aggressively started focussing on private-public partnerships in the segment, the game changed in 2020. 

It is pertinent to note that the Centre’s announcement to have private participation in the sector and form the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) paved the way for the birth of several tech startups like GalaxEye.

Founded in 2021 by Suyash Singh, Denil Chawda, Kishan Thakkar, Pranit Mehta, and Rakshit Bhatt, the Bengaluru-based spacetech startup has emerged as one of the innovative startups in this sector, which is building a satellite to primarily cater to general insurance providers, globally.

Before delving deeper, we must note that natural disasters have increased worldwide due to climate change. As per a report, 2022 alone witnessed approximately $50 Bn-$55 Bn of global insured losses, becoming the fifth costliest year for insurers on record. 

However, insurance claims for such crises are still tricky for both insurers and claimants. Hence, there is an increased need for specialised satellites, with state-of-the-art sensors and cameras, which can identify and map damages to help insurance providers process claims more efficiently. 

GalaxEye Eyes Insurance Sector

While the uses of satellite imagery and data are more prevalent and known in areas like geological mapping, mining, and weather forecasting, its use cases in general insurance are less touched upon. 

GalaxEye wants to empower insurance companies with its satellite data and images so that the latter can make use of those to better scrutinise the damage from natural disasters such as floods and drought and other man-made crises on the insurance claimants. This could potentially streamline the insurance claiming process for both the providers and claimants.

Equipped with its Drishti sensors, which GalaxEye has built in-house and is upgrading continuously, the startup aims to launch its first-ever satellite in space in the second quarter of the financial year 2023-24 (FY24).

As one of the other major differentiating factors, GalaxEye’s Drishti sensors offer a fusion of multispectral imaging system, which is an optical sensor sensitive to radiation within a visible, narrow wavelength band, and Synthetic Aperture Radar sensors (SAR). 

A majority of satellite companies, even today, either use SAR or optical sensors like multispectral or hyperspectral – both of which have their own limitations. 

For instance, Bengaluru-based Pixxel and US-based Satellogic are a few names developing hyperspectral earth imaging satellites while international companies like Capella Space and Umbra and SpaceAlpha are a few companies that are working with SAR satellites.

By developing the Drishti sensors that are a fusion of optical sensors and SAR, GalaxEye’s founder and CEO Singh believes that the startup can bring better efficiency in capturing the Earth’s images from space and provide more accurate data in less time.

“The use cases for optical sensors are massive because we get a lot of information – we can classify buildings, swimming pools and agricultural lands, and understand the vegetation level of crops. The only challenge is that these sensors fail when it is cloudy and during nighttime. That’s where SAR comes to the rescue, which can penetrate clouds and do nighttime imaging as well,” said Singh.

However, images captured by SAR sensors need experts to interpret and decode the data. Hence, the companies that work with SAR sensors require a team of highly skilled experts to build solutions from such data, Singh said.

“On the contrary, we intend to bring the best of the world with multispectral and SAR, which any developer, who understands any satellite images, can use. Our Drishti sensors are basically a combination of both, something that many have not cracked yet,” he added.

The startup has been working on developing and improving its sensors over the last 23 months in its lab in Bengaluru. It has also tested the sensors in their various stages of development by installing them on drones and aircraft.

GalaxEye factsheet

Besides, GalaxEye is also building both the payload and the bus of its satellite in-house.

GalaxEye is already in talks with multiple general insurance providers, mainly in the US, Europe, and Africa to start business agreements. Starting primarily with insurance providers, the startup aims to gradually expand its offerings to other industries.

GalaxEye’s Journey So Far 

In September 2017, a team of engineers from IIT Madras started building Avishkar Hyperloop, with Singh, along with the five founders of GalaxEye, leading the project. In 2019, the team participated in the SpaceX Pod Competition, a global competition organised by Elon Musk’s venture SpaceX where they demonstrated their hyperloop model as the only Asian team in the competition.

This brought the five founders together in 2020, who then decided to start a spacetech startup — GalaxEye.

“Because we were at the SpaceX competition and interacted with various enthusiasts in the space industry, including Musk, we realised that the industry was actually on the verge of opening up for the public. That’s where we wanted to foray, grab the opportunity, and build what we are building today,” said GalaxEye’s founding member and VP of business development, Pranit Mehta.

The startup has raised around $4 Mn since its inception from the likes of Speciale Invest, Artha India Ventures, Anicut Capital, Veda VC, Zerodha founder Nithin Kamath, EaseMyTrip’s Prashant Pitti, and Tracxn founder Abhishek Goyal, among others.

It is looking to raise an additional $15 Mn-$25 Mn in 2023 to send its satellite to Earth’s orbit. GalaxEye is also in talks with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for the launch.

Singh said that the government and senior leaders at ISRO have consistently supported GalaxEye’s journey, with senior leaders of ISRO mentoring the company at various levels.

Decluttering Space

Given that GalaxEye’s satellite is still in the development phase, the startup couldn’t share its exact specifications. It, however, said that it falls under the microsatellite domain, which should weigh more than 50 kg.

In fact, its satellite would be much bigger than the ones its Indian peers have built so far in India.

However, Singh believes that satellites should be engineered not only with a focus on their operability but also with sustainability in mind, which demands significant amounts of R&D.

It is pertinent to note that while the innovation and players in spacetech are leapfrogging, orbital debris is on the rise and poses a major future challenge. 

In 2021, 27,000 pieces of orbital debris were tracked by the US Department of Defense’s global Space Surveillance Network (SSN) sensors. An increasing amount of debris could be highly risky for space stations and the operations of live satellites.

At a time when a lot of innovative actions are taken by cleantech startups, the founders of GalaxEye believe that it is the responsibility of spacetech startups and organisations to ensure cleanliness in the space. 

“Design a system that works for at least a few years and when satellites stop functioning, you can easily deorbit them. To build a successful business in space, you have to build satellites responsibly and take care of the entire ecosystem,” Singh added.

Currently, GalaxEye is all set to reap the benefits of India’s growing leadership in space innovation, which, as per an EY report, is expected to become a $600 Bn market by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 6% between 2020 and 2025 period. 

Earlier this month, the Centre approved the Indian Space Policy 2023 to enhance the role of startups and other private entities functioning in space.

Meanwhile, the global spacetech economy is expected to grow to $10 Tn by 2030 from $380 Bn in 2020, estimates a SpaceTech Analytics report.

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