Started in 2021, GalaxEye Space wants to make the world’s first multi sensor imaging satellite constellation which can take images in visible and microwave spectrums. With seed funding of $3.5 million from Speciale Invest, the startup wants to target reinsurance, insurance and utilities sectors. “These sectors need larger, higher frequency and high resolution datasets to understand what has really happened in a given area,” says Suyash Singh, co-founder and CEO, GalaxEye Space.
Vegetation monitoring around transmission lines, pipeline leakage understanding, post disaster assessment, assessing damages to infrastructure to underwrite risk are some applications that can be accomplished with the smaller satellites that GalaxEye Space is working on. While many aerial imaging applications are carried out by drones, they drastically differ from satellite imaging.
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“Resolution wise, the satellite images may be undeniably poorer than drones. However, drones are a complimentary tech to what we do rather than a competing tech,” says Singh. “Drones can’t fly over 100s of sq km in 1 hour. There are a lot of operational risks, a need for a drone pilot and in high wind situations, they simply fail. High risk, high frequency operations are always a question with drones,” says Singh.
The images made by smaller satellites are also slightly less in resolution in comparison to the images taken by larger ones, which are usually built by the likes of NASA and ISRO. “The large satellites take images that have resolution in the range of 5-10 m per pixel. Our smaller satellites make images that are slightly less in resolution,” says Singh. “However the key difference is the availability and size,” he adds.
Large satellites are almost the size of a large Volvo
According to him, all satellites in a constellation will do an identical job with some upgrades for a few of them based on the purpose or application. The startup is expecting to launch its first satellite towards the end of first quarter of 2024. “Most of the space startups do not generate cash yet. We get a large number of letters of interest,” says Singh.
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The startup has partnered with Antaris for mission planning while Singh’s team build their own software for data processing. “Unlike automotive industry, people don’t make things in bulk for satellites. The turnaround time from suppliers is also really long for the multi sensor satellites we are building,” says Singh. Moreover, 30-40% of the satellite, which includes semiconductor parts, are imported. In addition to supply chain limitations, outside ISRO, space tech talent is sparse in India. “We need electronics and digital signal processing talent which are hard to get,” says Singh.