How Infinite Orbits Got A Deal To Debut Its Satellite Tech With SpaceX

Growing up, Akshay Gulati had a keen interest in space and idolized American astronomer Carl Sagan.

He had big dreams of exploring unknown frontiers and is now the co-founder and CEO of Infinite Orbits, which offers services in space.

When he was a mechanical engineering student at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, he ran a space club for his fellow students. Later, while doing his master’s degree at the same institute, his teacher gave him the task of running a space laboratory, where he carried out interesting research projects in his spare time.

akshay gulati
Akshay works in an IIT lab / Image credit: Akshay Gulati

Akshay continued to work with the Indian National Space Agency, but he soon realized that in order to have the greatest freedom to experiment and express his ideas, he had to follow the path of entrepreneurship.

He wanted to pursue the commercial space sector, developing practical applications for space use cases, instead of pursuing overly theoretical research projects.

At a 2016 conference in the United States, he met his co-founder through Common Acquaintance, who is a former scientist from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The two hit it off and began to brainstorm a NASA challenge at Columbia University together. Little by little, they quickly began to imagine plans to move to Singapore to develop their business.

S’pore as a hub for AES space technology

Akshay felt the move here was due to the availability of funding and customer base, as well as ease of regulation.

With the creation of the Office of the Space and Technology Industry (OSTIn) in 2003, the space industry has continued to grow. Although Singapore is dubbed a “little red dot”, it accounts for 7% of the global share of space investment.

Instead of funneling billions of dollars into a public space agency like regional and global space players, Singapore has been an encouraging observer who provides a platform for venture capital, startups, corporations, universities and government agencies. to set up operations and nurture the innovation ecosystem.

This is why many space startups are mushrooming in Singapore, especially those focusing on satellites. To date, more than 30 companies and 1,000 people work in the space industry.

Everything is so simple and well regulated here. It has also been easy to recruit talent, both local and foreign, who can help us grow.

When it comes to satellite technology, more customers are concentrated in Singapore. Other places like Hong Kong and Indonesia have also liberalized telecommunications satellite companies (but) in India, where I’m from, all telecommunications satellites are owned by the national space agency.

– Akshay Gulati, co-founder and CEO of Infinite Orbits

Since its inception here, Infinite Orbits has received a lot of support from the Infocomm Media Development Authority, the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the JTC LaunchPad @ one-north.

Infinite Orbit Laboratory
Infinite Orbits Lab / Image Credit: Infinite Orbits

The team also expanded to the European market, establishing bases in the UK and France, after securing funding from the European Space Agency and Innovate UK.

Funding challenges are just the tip of an iceberg

Space startups are notoriously capital intensive. Testing and product development requires huge capital before anything can be launched and revenue can be generated.

Although interested customers order transaction contracts, the delivery of the technology requires the injection of more capital and resources, as well as a long-term horizon.

To date, Infinite Orbits has received US $ 1 million in funding and gross income, but it plans to raise more as soon as possible.

They are currently supported by the European Space Agency, EDB, Stanford Space Rendezvous Lab, angel investors connected to the telecommunications industry, and satellite manufacturers based in Canada and Europe.

Another business challenge they face is explaining their technology to the market and investors.

Not many people do what we do, so it’s a double-edged sword. We don’t have any competition, but it’s also difficult to explain what exactly we’re building, especially when the technology isn’t ready yet.

– Akshay Gulati, co-founder and CEO of Infinite Orbits

As it is difficult for them to define products, services and offers, they inevitably take on an experimental character. This is why Infinite Orbits has rotated several times since its inception in 2017.

They used to provide parking spaces via satellite

They seem to have found their niche specializing in the development of satellite technologies with a target location in geostationary orbit (GEO). This is an orbit of high commercial value because this is where the telecommunications satellites are mainly located.

Previously, the company provided a service reserving spaces for satellites to park in the GEO orbit. The time slots available in space are limited, which has allowed satellite providers to outsource “parking” at a competitive cost.

Right now, their main focus is on developing a new technology: camera vision-based technology to help satellites and space vehicles navigate autonomously.

infinite orbital space navigation technology
Space Navigation Technology / Image Credit: Infinite Orbits

This technology comes in the form of a plug-and-play software module that can be installed on satellites to automate navigation. The module helps satellites move more accurately, allowing them to move closer or further away from targets. For example, it can detect objects such as space debris and move away from it.

However, situational awareness in GEO orbit is difficult to achieve because it is located so far from Earth. To put it in perspective, it is over 35,000 kilometers above the Earth’s equator.

In addition, their technology can also be used by satellites to perform automated assembly in orbit, eliminating the need for a human controller.

If you watch a lot of space movies, a control room needs a lot of manpower and resources to monitor a single astronaut.

There are actually a lot of risks and costs associated with sending a human into space, so we automate the process and make things more profitable and less risky.

– Akshay Gulati, co-founder and CEO of Infinite Orbits

Democratize the space industry

According to Akshay, the biggest space issue today is the huge capital requirement, which prevents startups and organizations from entering the industry and developing new products and services.

This makes the game limited to large corporations and governments that might not be as experimental or innovative as startups. He then named the biggest players in the industry with bigger funding pockets, such as Airbus and Lockheed Martins, as their biggest competitors.

But that’s also where Infinite Orbits comes in – it aims to provide technology and services to small players in the space to outsource their operations and innovate at a lower cost. Their goal is to make the space industry more accessible to a greater number of stakeholders.

Despite being a smaller player, they’ve struck a deal to launch their autonomous navigation technology demo on Elon Musk’s SpaceX mission in the first quarter of next year, which Akshay describes as one. of the biggest milestones of the company.

Infinite Orbits has come this far since its launch, and Akshay is not closing opportunities for future acquisitions by larger companies, if their technology is useful to them.

We want space activity to move from individual missions to a true collaborative ecosystem in orbit, an ecosystem that maintains and develops on its own.

In the future, our autonomous navigation technology should not be limited to space exploration – we also hope to do marine exploration.

– Akshay Gulati, co-founder and CEO of Infinite Orbits

Featured Image Credit: Infinite Orbits

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