Indian rocket startup Skyroot Aerospace has been handed a $51 million lift after a funding round led by Singapore sovereign investor GIC.
Skyroot, which plans to use the cash to begin commercial satellite launches by the middle of next year, already has an agreement with the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to share facilities and expertise.
The funding follows the Indian government’s push to get the country’s private sector to complement its state-run space programme known for its affordable launches and missions. India’s unmanned Mars mission in 2014 cost only $74 million, less than the budget of the Hollywood space movie “Gravity”.
Still, India accounts for only about 2% of the $360 billion global space economy.
Skyroot says it is also making India’s first privately developed space launch vehicles – built with an all-carbon fibre structure that can launch up to 800 kg (1,760 pounds) of payloads to low-Earth orbit.
“This round will help us get to full-fledged commercial satellite launch scale within a year from now,” said Skyroot co-founder Naga Bharath Daka, formerly an engineer with ISRO. “We have started booking payload slots for our upcoming launches.”
The company said the aim was to have its first commercial launch in mid-2023.
GIC’s India managing director, Mayank Rawat, will join Skyroot’s board after the funding.
The Indian government says that while global companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic have revolutionised the space industry by cutting costs and turnaround time, Indian private players had remained mere vendors or suppliers to ISRO for long.
In the past few years, however, more than a dozen Indian firms developing satellites, rockets and related support systems have come up.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara