For the first time in 50 years, two satellites by Indian startups — SpaceKidz India and Pixxel (incorporated as Sygyzy) — were tested at the UR Rao Satellite Centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
This comes after India opened up its space sector to private players in June last year. An independent body, Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), was set up to not only to oversee the space activity of the private sector, but also to handhold and share facilities of ISRO. The decision of the body would be binding on ISRO as well.
Eight months after this announcement was made, ISRO is ready to launch commercial satellites in a PSLV mission scheduled for later this month. It will be the first mission wherein satellites by the Indian industry will be commercially launched by ISRO.
A satellite designed by students from SpaceKidz India had been launched by ISRO as an experiment in January 2019 using the fourth stage of the PSLV, which usually goes to waste, as the platform for the KalamSat.
The PSLV C-51 mission will carry a Brazilian satellite Amazonia-1 under a commercial arrangement made by the NewSpace India limited, the commercial arm of Isro. In addition, the launch vehicle will carry 20 passenger satellites—including one nanosatellite by Isro, the two satellites under testing, and UnitySats (developed by a consortium of academies).
Another startup Skyroot is working towards developing a launch vehicle that is likely to be launched by the end of the year. Isro will share their spaceports —the existing one at Sriharikota and the upcoming one in Thoothukudi—with industries for such missions.