(The story has been updated after Space X decided to postpone launch of the rocket to 2 December.)
On Sunday 2 December, another Space X rocket will fly into the space from Vandenberg Air Force Base, which is business as usual for the Elon Musk-owned company.
The rocket was first supposed to take off earlier this month, but that didn’t come through multiple times. The new launch date was announced on Saturday.
Now targeting December 2 for launch of Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express from Vandenberg Air Force Base.— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 29, 2018
Now that we have a confirmed launch date for the rocket, it’s time to delve into an interesting Indian context for the story, something which has been scripted from our shores in Mumbai.
A Mumbai-based company called ExseedSpace is playing a critical part of the Space X project. This Indian startup is putting a made-in-India satellite on board the rocket.
This is the first time a private Indian company is sending a satellite into space on board Space X’s rocket. If ever there was an interest in Space X’s aerospace program, now it probably a good time to cherish its Indian angle.
ExseedSpace, based out of Mumbai, is manned by a team of eight people that includes “mechanical, telecom engineers, space and post-launch management engineers and people looking at the core science of things,” says Kris Nair, CEO and Founder of ExseedSpace.
Speaking to The Quint earlier this month, Kris said ExseedSpace “is a launcher agnostic platform and Space X is one of its vendors.”
"There is PSLV and you have a global brand Space X, which we ended up choosing to fly our first mission. It’s not a big feat. " - Kris Nair, CEO and Founder, ExseedSpace
He is quick to point out ExseedSpace designs its satellites in-house for its customers. “If they want a constellation of satellites sent during a period, they come to us and we help them out. This is a straight forward commercial contract,” Kris explained.
So what kind of satellite has the company designed to be put on board the rocket launching this Sunday? “It is a fully functional tele-communication satellite, even though it is small in size. It helps coordinate messages between ham radio enthusiasts and can be used for effective communication in the event of disasters.”
Amateur Radio or ham radio is basically a hobby and service that brings people, electronics and communications together. People use ham radio to talk across town, around the world, or even into space, sans the Internet.
"This is a single module satellite, but we will be doing another constellation planning soon, where there will be more. But for this we’re using just one. " - Kris Nair, CEO and Founder, ExseedSpace
He mentions that post the launch of the Space X rocket, his company will be working on its next project with the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). This is an expendable medium-lift launch vehicle designed and operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
What Exseed Does
In terms of the general profile of the company, Exseed is “building and delivering communication services using small satellite constellations. It is focusing on solutions around M2M communications, vessel tracking & RF signal monitoring from space,” its says on its website.
"How this industry works is, you have to submit the satellite two months earlier (or t-60) and it is up to Space X or any other launch vehicle to fly it. We send the satellite, wherever the rocket company wants to launch it from." - Kris Nair, CEO and Founder, ExseedSpace
According to this Times of India report, the company is reportedly working towards setting up India’s first contract satellite manufacturing facility.
Once operational, the facility will cater to the growing global demands of manufacturing Cubesats, Nano-sats & Micro-sats (1U/2U/3U/6U). ExseedSpace is also involved in a Indian government project where it will build three 1.6 to 3 tonne satellites every year, for a period of three years, the report adds.
ExseedSpace, according to Kris, “is one of the 60 budding startups in the Indian aerospace ecosystem that are thriving in present conditions and looking to work and evolve together as a community, working on big things.”
Speaking about the delay in launch of the Space X rocket, Kris understands the complexities of space travel that engineers are mindful of before making a spacecraft. This is likely to have pushed the launch date, with “Space X engineers probably needing more time to re-verify all the systems in place.”
Indian space entities are clearly looking at the big picture and it augers well for the future of space enthusiasts in the country.
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