Hashtag Magazine catches up with the founders of Dhruva Space who are making waves with their innovative work
MAKING A MARK
In 2012, Dhruva Space Private Limited was founded by longtime friends Sanjay Nekkanti, Chaitanya Dora Surapureddy, Abhay Egoor and Krishna Teja Penamakuru. Upon finishing his dual-degree Master’s programme in Space Engineering in Sweden and France, Nekkanti returned to India, determined to establish the country as a satellite-making capital of the world. with this in mind.
In 2015, through a separate consultancy endeavour for Thybolt, an electronic design lab in Hyderabad, Nekkanti reconnected with his friends (all of whom are alum of BITS Pilani Goa). Having seen how there were no private space-tech manufacturers, the four friends and collaborators were determined to create the first Indian-made satellite and to launch it from Indian ground. This paved the way for Thybolt to be absorbed into Dhruva Space in 2019, marking a new chapter in the space company’s growth.
“When Dhruva Space started up in 2012, the market was not very receptive to space entrepreneurs trying to build a full solution therefore there was not much access to capital. Ultimately, at the time, the private Space sector was considered a ‘very high-risk domain’ and the consensus was such that there was no guarantee of a reward.” recalls Nekkanti, the Chief Executive Officer.
OPTIMISIC AND EXCITED ABOUT THE FUTURE
Additionally, in 2012, the market was segmented only into Academia – which was academic institutions building small satellites – and Government which is Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Access to capital in 2012 was very difficult, but as the dialogue around satellite and space technologies have evolved over the years, Dhruva Space has raised INR 26.5 crores to date; and they are supported by institutional and angel funds.
“Ultimately, the upcoming Space policy is set to pave the way for Dhruva Space and the private Space-tech sector in having our own constellation of satellites in the future and offering a satellite-enabled service – thus coming full circle. That said, having successfully space-qualified one of our Satellite Orbital Deployers called DSOD 1U on ISRO’s PSLV C53 mission in June this year, we are extremely excited and optimistic about what is to come for Dhruva Space and for the private Space-tech sector.” shares Nekkanti.
A UNIQUE STARTUP
Dhruva Space Private Limited is a full-stack space-engineering solutions provider based in Hyderabad, India. Dhruva Space is active across space, launch, and ground segments and supports civilian and defense clients worldwide.
Speaking of its USP, Surapureddy explains, “Dhruva Space offers Satellites coupled with Earth Stations and Launch Services as an integrated solution or individually as technology solutions to power space-based applications on Earth and beyond.”
In the Space segment, Dhruva builds satellite platforms and subsystems for satellites from 0.5-kilogram to upto 300-kilogram class. “Dhruva Space is the first Indian private company to secure an order for end-to-end design and development of space-grade solar arrays for satellites. Moreover, Dhruva Space is also the only Indian private entity with deployers compatible with ISRO launch vehicles (PSLV and SSLV) apart from other international launch vehicles. The CubeSat deployer range of Dhruva Space includes 1U, 3U, 6U, 12U and 16U form factors in multiple configurations to suit the varied launch requirements.” adds Penamakuru.
Dhruva Space designs and installs ground stations for clients who wish to own their assets. The company also provides aggregated satellite communication services through its own and partner ground station network. Through partners, network access is available also in 13 stations across 11 countries of the world.
Dhruva Space’s online software, Integrated Space Operations Command Suite (ISOCS), enables operating ground stations from anywhere in the world to track, command, transfer and visualise satellite data. Over the decade-long journey as the first Indian space-technology startup, Dhruva Space has contributed to multiple policy consultations and regulatory frameworks, both at National and International levels.
Dhruva Space is an active participant of International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Space & Satellite Professionals International (SSPI), United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), HAPS Alliance and other international forums. In 2020, Dhruva Space was awarded the National Startup Award by the Government of India for its efforts in Satellite and Space Technology and in March 2022, Dhruva Space won ‘Best Spacetech Startup’ at Entrepreneur India’s Startup 2022 Awards.
Egoor adds, “From a projections perspective, India has about 80 space assets while the United States of America has 1650 and China has 450. This is going to increase tremendously in the coming years, fuelling growth for satellite-enabled services. Satellites already play a vital role in the communications of everyone’s quotidian lives, so the imminent growth will enhance this role.”
Apart from that, from a business perspective, they shall also be enabling our customers to launch their satellites on our deployer. This is in addition to expanding their global customer base for our flagship products such as the space-grade solar panels and satellite platforms.