The story of human progress has been one of expansion. We first ventured beyond the edge of the sea, we then set foot on the moon and now our sights are set on Mars.
The urge to expand and explore space is not just driven by a sense of wonder. Space is also becoming an increasingly valuable resource. It has all the material resources we need and with the right technology, we can unlock its wealth.
The first step to expand the economy of Earth beyond its atmosphere is to start close by, by commercializing the Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) and creating a “LEO economy”. LEO encapsulates space that is relatively close to Earth's surface. It is normally at an altitude of less than 1000 km but could be as low as 160 km above Earth.
The burgeoning potential of this new frontier of the economy presents a once-in-a-generation chance to build the shovels for a galactic-scale gold rush. This is why we are investing in InspeCity and its founders: Prof. Arindrajit Chowdhury and Dr. Tausif Shaik and their vision to help build cities in space.
Arindrajit and Tausif plan to achieve this by establishing in-space logistics solutions centered around reusable Multi-Operational Orbital Vehicles (MOOVs). These are akin to tug boats in the sea that help large ships with repairs, servicing, and refuelling. These “space tugs” will also help with re-orbiting decommissioned satellites.
The imminent need for sustainable small satellite systems
Aside from the shifting focus toward space as a resource, the global satellite launch industry is shifting towards small satellites. With this comes the need to ensure these satellites endure in an environment that is prone to orbital decay and space debris.
25,000 small satellites (excluding SpaceX) will be launched between now and 2030. Over 50% of these satellites are on ride-share missions and need to reach specific orbits. About 10% of these satellites (i.e.) 2500 of them will need maintenance right after launch.
All this entails a potential $23.2B market for satellite propulsion, ride-sharing, and servicing businesses by 2030. This means there is an imminent need for in-space servicing (de-orbiting and refuelling) of small satellites. As the demand for it builds up, sub-system manufacturing will also increase in importance leading to an impending need for solutions that keep satellites in service, repair them and even revive older satellites.
InspeCity’s three-phase launch
InspeCity’s solution is to build a system of Multi-Operational Orbital Vehicles (MOOVs) that act like space-born service vehicles to repair, recommission, and re-orbit small satellites in low earth orbits.
The MOOVs will be built in three phases:
- Proprietary Propulsion Technology: Development of a bi-propellant satellite propulsion technology for satellite bus manufacturers (that make the main body and structural component of a satellite).
- Satellite Deployment Technology: Development of an OTV (Orbital Transfer Vehicle) to deploy satellites into precise orbits on ride-share.
- Satellite servicing via OTV: This includes de-orbiting (moving a satellite out of crowded orbits, either to an area of space that isn't heavily populated or back down to Earth), re-fuelling, and subsystem servicing.
With decades of research in the field of propulsion and space science between them, Prof. Arindrajit and Dr.Tausif, are uniquely equipped to pursue this plan. Prof Arindrajit has been working with academia (at IIT Bombay) and space tech companies like Manastu for over ten years post his PhD from Penn State University. Dr. Tausif has worked as a Research Assistant and Associate at IIT Bombay and as an Asst. Professor at A.P Shah Institute of Technology.
A promising trajectory
On 15th February, InspeCity was among the six startups recognized by the honourable Minister of Defence, Shri Rajnath Singh, for winning the DefSpace challenge at Manthan 2023, the annual defence innovation event hosted by iDEX, a ‘not for profit’ company as founded by two of Indian Government’s Defence Public Sector Undertakings - HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) and BEL (Bharat Electronics Limited).
InspeCity is one of the youngest companies to ever win a prestigious iDEX challenge for its work in the field of micro-satellite propulsion.
The future of the planet lies beyond its horizons and all the ventures accelerating this will play a critical role in one of humanity's most ambitious ventures. Being able to do this from India as research and development focussed founders is why we believe in InspeCity and we are excited to help them go above and beyond!
Read more about InspeCity's pre-seed round funding as appeared in Moneycontrol.