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A Glimpse into India's Blossoming Space Sector
PLUS: Google Skyrockets Pixxel's Hyperspectral Mission with a $36MM Boost
Good afternoon, my fellow Earthlings 👽️🖖
Don't let your weekend relaxation plans distract you from the latest developments in the space and tech industry. Here's what's shaking…
Straight from the heart of Bengaluru comes Pixxel, an Indian hyperspectral satellite imaging startup that's painting a new picture of Earth's surface, pixel by pixel. Hyperspectral satellite imaging is like a magical art set, where instead of using just 10 colours to paint a picture of Earth, Pixxel found a way to use thousands of colours to show all the tiny details we usually can't see. On June 1, Google announced it was leading a $36 million funding round for the startup, marking the first significant investment in the Indian space sector since the government introduced a policy in April 2023 to encourage privatization.
Our journey to the stars just got a $36M boost! We're over the moon to announce that @PixxelSpace has secured $36M in Series B funding! 🚀 A big thank you to @Google, @lightspeedvp, @radicalvcfund, and others for believing in our vision of transforming the way we see our planet! https://t.co/oTUOySe06F
Pixxel is on a quest to construct a constellation of satellites that can do more than just snap pretty pictures of our planet. We're talking about satellites that can identify mineral deposits and assess crop productivity - orders of magnitude better than ever before. The funds are intended to expand Pixxel's satellite network, which currently comprise of three satellites, with six more set to be launched next year. Some of the funding will also go towards the development of the next version of satellites, known as Honeybees, which will offer even higher resolution imaging capabilities. The startup has already amassed over $71 million from investors, and the team has built an impressive client list, featuring heavyweights like global miner Rio Tinto Ltd. and Australian agritech company DataFarming.
When used from space, this magical art set (i.e., hyperspectral imaging) can unveil crucial information about our planet - it can detect gas leaks, identify specific types of minerals, and even classify different species of plants. Pixxel is a rising star in the space tech scene and has been rapidly innovating on this technology since its inception in February 2019.
But Pixxel isn't content to stop here. The company is now focusing on the deployment of its next-gen Firefly constellations. These new satellites are set to raise the bar, providing five-meter resolution over most of the Earth, outperforming the 10-meter resolution offered by current demo satellites. To put that in perspective, it's like to swapping an old-school analog TV for 4K – a resolution like no other hyperspectral sensor has achieved in space.
Designed for endurance, these Firefly satellites boast an extended lifespan, stretching from two years to seven years. They're also a bit beefier, likely due to the inclusion of increased on-board propulsion systems. As with other nascent space industries, a combination of shrinking technology components and frequent, inexpensive launches has made the business possible, according to Awais Ahmed, Founder & CEO of Pixxel. The launch pad is set for the first three Firefly satellites to make their journey into orbit in early 2024, courtesy of SpaceX. Hot on their heels is an ambitious target of launching 18 additional satellites by 2025.
Awais Ahmed envisions a future where hyperspectral data is as easily accessible as optical satellite imagery is today. This could potentially empower users to monitor changes in metal or forest cover, or even track endangered wildlife in vast reserves. It's a tantalizing glimpse into a future where we don't just see our planet, but understand it.
🔭 India's burgeoning private space sector
In April 2023, the Indian government announced a new policy framework aimed at privatizing the space sector in an effort to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship in space technology. The recent investment by Google in Pixxel is one of the first major investments in the Indian space sector following this policy change. Pixxel, which is set to be the most valued space tech company in India after this investment, represents a key player in this burgeoning sector. Other companies like Skyroot Aerospace, a rocket and launch provider valued at around $163 million, are also emerging as significant contributors to the private space sector in India.
Google's investment in Pixxel signifies the potential that global tech giants see in India's space sector and may pave the way for more international collaboration. Pixxel investors aren't just on board - they're strapped in and ready for lift-off. So, buckle up and get ready for the ride my fellow Earthlings, because Pixxel is just getting started.