Our ancestors navigated their way through the world by watching out for landmarks or observing the stars and the sun. Today, satellites have made it possible to use convenient tools such as GPS, which makes it easier to get from point A to point B, among other applications.
There are about 2,666 operational satellites circling Earth as of April 2020, and more than half were launched for commercial purposes. About 61% of those provide communication services, including satellite TV and the internet.
However, time can be a hindrance when it comes to launching these satellites. It takes about six months to build a small satellite and over 18 months to send that object into space.
In a bid to solve this problem, space technology startup Agnikul just secured US$11 million in a financing round led by Mayfield India, which backs startups including travel-focused MakeMyTrip and business data platform Crunchbase. This also marks the largest funding round for a private space tech company in India.
Venture capital firms such as Beenext, Globevestor, LionRock Capital, Anicut Angel Fund and LetsVenture also joined Agnikul’s fundraise. Several angel investors including Naval Ravikant, co-founder of AngelList, and Balaji Srinivasan, co-founder of Earn.com, participated as well.
Agnikul will use the new funds to develop technology infrastructure, expand ground testing, and increase its headcount by 25%. The company aims to reduce the waiting time for putting satellites in orbit from about 12 to 18 months to two weeks or less.
Currently, Agnikul is building Agnibaan, a rocket that enables plug-and-play configuration and has a payload or carrying capacity of 100 kilograms in low Earth orbits. This on-demand rocket can be fully customized according to a client’s needs at an affordable cost, according to the company.
“We want to build customer-centric landscapers, where people don’t need to wait for a large carpooling sort of a concept. You don’t need to do a ride share; you can directly go to space,” said Agnikul founder Srinath Ravichandran.
The startup serves about 60 clients, including small satellite manufacturers in the imaging and communications space, which can produce payloads weighing in the range of 1 kilogram or less to 300 kilograms.
To build its rocket, Agnikul struck a deal with the Indian government in December 2020. The agreement gives the startup access to the facilities and technical expertise of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
Last year, Agnikul also raised US$3.2 million in a pre-series A funding round led by Pi Ventures, an early-stage fund focused on deep-tech opportunities.
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