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The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Gurugram, Haryana-based private space firm, Vyom Space Exploration and Services Private Limited, for its “human and cargo transportation capsule program", the central space agency announced on Tuesday. The MoU was facilitated by India’s nodal space authorization body, Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (In-Space).

According to Isro, the startup is being incubated under ‘JSIIC’. Details about the incubation program, or Isro’s targeted timelines, were not disclosed publicly by the body.

A ‘capsule’ in a space mission is the module inside which any cargo is placed for being carried to space. In manned missions, the capsule is what hosts the astronauts. The capsules have typically been single-use in nature, with the exception of US-based private space firm, Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s reusable human and cargo module, Crew Dragon.

Manish Kukreti, founder and chief executive of Vyom Space, told Mint that the company has so far been working with research and development (R&D) partners in Europe to develop its product.

“India is not a market that is already developed in terms of the entire gamut of space infrastructure, which required us to tap global partners to develop our product. There will be a clear and obvious demand in the space industry for reusable capsules that can carry cargo and eventually humans, and so far, only the US and China have been able to develop such a product," Kukreti said.

According to Kukreti, the company will be delivering the first prototype of its space capsule to Isro within the next 16 months, subsequent to which the capsule would be tested by the space body. “We are developing only the core technology of the capsule itself, and given the vast body of expertise that Isro has in the other parts of a space mission, wouldn’t want to delve into every single aspect of it," he said.

Isro’s announcement of an MoU with Vyom Space comes amid a slew of achievements for the private space sector in India. On November 18, Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace became the first himegrown private space company to launch a rocket into space. A week later, on November 26, Pixxel and Dhruva Space launched their second round of satellites aboard Isro’s latest commercial mission.

Last week, Srinath Ravichandran, chief executive of Agnikul Cosmos, told Mint that the company plans to launch its own rocket — and India’s first orbital private rocket — from Srihariokota, Andhra Pradesh before the end of the year.

Vyom’s Kukreti said that the company’s own module will be reusable, and therefore be an evolution of what the first prototype module of Isro’s manned mission, Gaganyaan, will use. “If you look at Gaganyaan, the modules are all single-use modules, which thus do not have high commercial viability. This is what we seek to offer to Isro’s missions," he said.

While Kukreti refused to disclose funding details of the startup, he admitted that building a space capsule is “a very capital intensive task". However, he claimed that the startup already has “commitments" from private investors around the world.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shouvik Das

Shouvik Das is a science, space and technology reporter for Mint and TechCircle. In his previous stints, he worked at publications such as CNN-News18 and Outlook Business. He has also reported on consumer technology and the automobile sector.
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