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This startup working with ISRO on satellite propulsion raises funding from IDFC-Parampara, Deepika Padukone, others

ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre gave a contract to Bellatrix to provide its propulsion technology for India’s space agency future satellite launches. The startup is also developing launch rocket – Chetak for launching nanosatellites.

Space-tech startup Bellatrix Aerospace, which has been working with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) since 2016 to provide its propulsion technology for ISRO’s future satellite missions, has raised $3 million funding in a round led by IDFC-Parampara, StartupXseed, Karsemven Fund and Suman Kant Munjal family office — Survam Partners.

Other investors that participated in this round included Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone through her strategic initiative arm KA Enterprises, GrowX Ventures, IIM Ahmedabad CIIE, and IIT Bombay incubator SINE, the company said in a statement adding that the capital will help it “space qualify” its products soon.

Based at Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, the startup is developing launch rocket Chetak for launching nanosatellites. The startup received Rs 20 lakh grant from Indian conglomerate JSW Group in 2013 for developing Microwave Plasma Thruster.

The company will deploy capital towards its in-space propulsion systems and will “subject its thrusters to rigorous ground qualification tests”, “work on key innovations”, and “expand to key global locations,” its co-founder Rohan Ganapathy said. Bellatrix is currently in process of collaborations for in-orbit demonstration of its products.

One of the biggest challenges in space explorations for emerging economies is the high cost involved in building rockets, launching satellites and maintaining them, satellite ground stations etc.

For instance, Ganapathy in an interview to Financial Express Online had said that around Rs 300 crore is required to build, launch, and maintain a telecom satellite in its orbit. “So we decided to work on bringing that cost down.”

A sizeable chunk of that cost goes into a satellite’s propulsion system that takes it to its destined orbit after detaching itself from the rocket. Ganapathy explained: A rocket’s purpose is to leave the satellite to its Geostationary Transfer Orbit from where the satellite’s propulsion system propels it to its destined orbit. This propulsion system makes up to 60-70 per cent – 2,000 kg – of the 3,500 kg communication satellite mass.

Along with Mysore-based electronics engineer Yashas Karanam, Ganapathy launched Bellatrix Aerospace in 2015 to develop an electric propulsion system called Microwave Electrothermal Thruster as the propulsion uses only 10 per cent of the fuel as compared to traditional chemical propulsion, he said. Bellatrix’s system uniquely runs on the water as a propellant for which it is patented.

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