Pixxel Launches 1st Commercial Imaging Satellite Aboard SpaceX Rocket

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The satellite was propelled into the atmosphere aboard the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket on April 1.

The satellite will help the startup in curating datasets that will enable Pixxel to monitor and predict global occurrences in real-time

The launch comes barely days after the startup raised $25 Mn in funding led by Canada-based Radical Ventures.

Adding another feather to its cap, spacetech startup Pixxel has successfully launched its first full-fledged commercial imaging satellite, Shakuntala. The satellite was propelled into the atmosphere aboard the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket which was launched from US’ Cape Canaveral on April 1.

Shakuntala, according to the startup, hosts one of the highest resolution hyperspectral commercial cameras ever flown to space. The launch is part of the startup’s ambitious plan to assemble a constellation of low-earth-orbit imaging satellites. 

The satellite will help the startup in curating datasets that will enable Pixxel to monitor and predict global occurrences in real-time

Commenting on the announcement, Pixxel CEO, Awais Ahmed, said, “From being one of the very few finalists in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in 2017 to now launching our own satellites as part of SpaceX’s fourth dedicated rideshare mission, life has come full-circle for us…Launching Shakuntala is the first step toward making space exploration easier, and accomplishing our goal of creating a constellation capable of providing global coverage every day.”

This comes barely days after the startup raised $25 Mn in funding led by Canada-based Radical Ventures. 

Founded in 2019 by BITS Pilani alumni, Awais Ahmed and Kshitij Khandelwal, Pixxel is a spacetech startup that enables clients to leverage its Earth-imaging satellites to detect, monitor and predict global phenomena in real-time. 

The startup essentially operates in the hyperspectral imaging sphere, which provides better analysis of the earth’s surface, producing a rich image that is better for data analysis. 

Essentially, data gathered from Pixxel’s satellites can be used to gain “actionable insights” for many domains by governments and firms alike.

The startup has so far raised $33 Mn in funding from investors. Prior to the $25 Mn fundraise, the startup had also raised $7.3 Mn in March last year in a funding round led by VC firms that included Blume Ventures, growX ventures and Lightspeed India. 

The ‘Shakuntala’

The satellite weighs less than 15 kilograms and is capable of capturing orbital images with a resolution of 10 metres per pixel. The satellite is also capable of capturing up to 150 bands of colour from the visible and infrared spectrum. Shakuntala will begin relaying information back to earth within a few weeks of launch.

The startup claims that its 10-metre hyperspectral imaging satellite ‘far exceeds’ the specificity of 30-metre per pixel hyperspectral satellites launched by organisations such as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), European Space Agency.

With this complete, the startup is now looking to kick off its second phase of expansion which will involve the launch of six new satellites by early 2023. The new satellites will be launched into the sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of 550 kilometres. 

Pixxel claims to have more than 50 clients that have signed pre-launch agreements with the startup.

The space sector is witnessing rapid liberalisation under the current government. This was visible when the government allocated INR 13.7K Cr in Budget 2022, an increase of INR 1,058 Cr over the revised estimate. 

An Inc42 research estimates that India has more than 120 active startups in the spacetech sector. From rocket technology ventures such as Bellatrix to satellite makers such as Dhruva Space, India’s space startups are rising up the occasion. 

Another Inc42 report also estimates that the commercial spacetech market is expected to grow to $77 Bn by 2030.





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