Before we talk about business, how best can you describe the journey of skyroot aerospace since its humble beginnings to where it is now?
It was in 2018 that we conceived the thought, at a time when the space sector was just about to burgeon globally. With a view that India can soon become a leading player in the global space landscape, we established Skyroot to be a part of the shift. As it came, the decision of the government of India under the guidance of our Prime Minister to encourage and develop the private space sector in India led by ISRO through IN-SPACe helped us in aligning our mission to the aspiration of India. We thus responded to the opportunity that arose, and to our credit, were quick to move, thus becoming the first private space company to sign MoU with ISRO, and our strong pursuit of our first launch success bore fruition in the form of Vikram-S on 18 November 2022. When we reflect on our journey so far, we think it was nothing short of breath-taking. Lot of things have happened during this exciting short journey, and it has been an absolutely engaging and enjoyable roller-coaster ride.
What are the challenges & opportunities you see in the space industry?
The government has led the transformation of the Indian space sector from the front, but the ecosystem still takes time to develop, and for now, the supply and value chains spreads across the world with cross-border dependencies on cutting-edge technologies, like the ones we employ. This dependency adds temporally to the development and launch schedules, and so it becomes imperative to have a water-tight hold on the supply chain to ensure that the deviations are minimal and does not have a domino effect. But we believe with the kind of interest among startups who are increasingly getting attracted to the domain, the gaps will soon be filled and Indian space will be in a much more stronger position in the near future with the private space establishing themselves as independent players capable of end-to-end space activities.
As about opportunities, it is galore. India, despite being one among a few spacefaring nations in the world, accounts for only about 2% of the space economy, even as it accounts for close to 18% of the world population. While the private sector has gained prominence in many spacefaring countries, till recently, India’s private space companies had limited role as vendors and suppliers to government. It was against this backdrop that the announcement of space reforms by the government in 2020, opening it up to facilitate private participation, has given a new fillip to India’s space program. This paradigm shift in policy has the potential to have a multiplier effect and contribute 5X growth in India’s share of the global space market in the next few years. It beckons a new era. And going by the signs, it has indeed started.
How will Vikram-S encourage private players in space field?
As the 1st private space launch by the Indian private space sector, the Vikram S has garnered a lot of attention and interest from Indian and global space enthusiasts and fraternity. It’s a big win for the country as well, as the successful launch happened within just 2 years of the Government of India opening the space sector up for private participation. Over the last 2 years, we have seen policy development occur at a very rapid pace. Vikram S success stands testimony of the strong support and encouragement that private space receives from ISRO and IN-SPACe as the mentor and regulator of the Indian space sector. Throughout the conception, preparation and execution of the Vikram-S, IN-SPACe has helped us in authorizing the launch and ISRO has helped us with all the infrastructure for undertaking several tests and integration activities plus provision of the launch facilities. With necessary policy frameworks and institutions such as INSPACe established and operational and highly responsive, the private players have a strong guidance and support system to back their operational and policy parameters, and so they can focus more on innovation and conceptual disruption of the domain.
Are you seeking any support from government for upcoming missions?
Support from the government is integral for the establishment and success of private space, and the synergy that can result from the innovation that happens and the end-to-end value chain capabilities that the private space can build can take Indian space to be a global leader soon. The upcoming space policy of India will be an important milestone with regard to the empowerment of the private space, and this is something which we are keen to look forward to. Our major orbital launch mission, the Vikram 1 is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2023, and as South Asia’s first orbital launch mission, it holds much importance for us. Various tests, developments and preparations for the same are underway, for which we are engaging few government facilities and infrastructure.
Can you talk about the small satellite-launch market? How is it looking for players like you?
We see considerable growth potential in the small satellite launch segment. According to a recent market survey, the global space launch services market is projected to double in size from $14.21 billion in 2022 to $31.9 billion by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 12.25%. Over the last decade, we have seen average satellite sizes reduce from close to 3000kgs to under ~400kgs. Moreover, the market is increasingly being led by constellations of smaller satellites in Low Earth Orbit. These customers want their satellites and constellations to be up and operational as soon as they are ready and delivered into precise destinations in space. Hence, there is an increasing need, especially among small-sat constellation builders for launch vehicle availability, greater control over launch schedule, high frequency launch capability, and last-mile satellite delivery to their target orbital destinations. Small launch service providers such as us can cater to this need effectively. Presently, there are 4 small launch players in the global market that have reached orbit successfully. Out of these 4, 3 have just entered the market in 2021-22. We expect to enter the orbital market with our Vikram I launch vehicle next year.
Would you associate with government projects, including in the defence sector? What are the advantages of such an association?
Though many of the technologies we possess and can develop can fulfil defence sector innovation, we are currently focused on the aerospace domain, where we believe we have a lot to accomplish with the next five years promising to be a very interesting phase for us as we are fast expanding our global reach and acclaim. We are however open to engaging with the government at various levels and across domains if an opportunity arises.
What is your message to youngsters who wish to become as spacepreneur?We are excited to see the overwhelming response we receive from the youngsters of the country, who have noticed the historic milestone that the Indian private space has achieved through Vikram S. We have several programs within the organisation through which we connect, inform, engage, inspire and recruit STEM subject talents from various institutions, and this is part of our social and community commitment to ensure that the space domain goes the same trajectory that the IT sector once did for India, through which India established itself as the thought leader in the technology domain. Our message to youngsters who are looking at the space domain is that it is definitely the next frontier for India, and the domain needs more brains and brawn to fortify itself and expand outwards into the world. But we need to also caution that it will not be a cakewalk, as the private domain is new, and with various countries also pursuing expansion of their private industries, the competition globally is set to intensify.
What is your ultimate goal in next 5-10 years?
Our goal is led by our vision of Opening Space for all, and we believe the next 5 years will see us achieving several milestones in pursuit of this, which would also set our course in becoming one of the top aerospace companies in the world.