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India’s first private satellite – a small piece of history on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket

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ExseedSAT-1, India’s first fully privately-built satellite, will launch on SSO-A SmallSat Express mission, which was postponed from its Tuesday date.

Bengaluru: The launch of SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 rocket from California, scheduled for Tuesday (IST), was postponed, the private firm announced in a tweet Monday.

The rocket is meant to carry out a “rideshare” mission termed the SSO-A SmallSat Express.

It will carry 64 satellites from 17 countries, but among those will be a piece of history — India’s first fully private satellite, a 1-kg cubesat built by Mumbai-based startup Exseed Space.

The satellite, christened ExseedSAT-1, is to be set in polar orbit around the Earth. A 10-cm cube, ExseedSAT-1 is the first Indian attempt at a satellite without any involvement from ISRO.

What is it for?

The satellite will provide services and functionality to the amateur (ham) radio community around the world, which would typically be very useful in times of emergencies and natural disasters.

Unlike any other commercially available communication systems, amateur radio is not affected by terrestrial systems that could fail.

India has previously launched a ham radio satellite called HAMSAT by amateur radio operators’ collective Amsat India, in collaboration with both ISRO and the Netherlands.

Indian private companies have not yet launched any satellites before, although ISRO’s IRNSS-1I satellite was assembled, integrated, and tested (AIT) by a consortium of private companies  in Bengaluru. Colleges and universities also regularly launch student satellites aboard ISRO rockets.

ExseedSAT-1 is not being launched on an ISRO rocket due to a slot not being available.

Also read: ISRO’s biggest rocket takes off with cutting-edge communication satellite

The company behind it

The cubesat was built and assembled by engineers at Exseedspace’s facility in Hyderabad. The 10-employee company was founded last year by CEO Kris Nair and CTO Ashhar Farhan, with offices in Mumbai and the Netherlands.

“We are already working on a couple of private missions for our customers in south-east Asia,” Nair told ThePrint. “We hope to launch six to eight satellites next year. These will mostly be EO payloads.”

Electro-optical (EO) satellites operate in the visible spectrum and are used for observation, surveillance, and tracking purposes across the world.

Also read: With Bangabandhu-1 launch on SpaceX rocket, Bangladesh aims to compete with India in space

About SpaceX’s newest mission

The SmallSat Express mission on Falcon 9 is a rideshare mission, and the first Falcon flight to contain no primary satellite.

The payloads contain 15 micro satellites and 49 cubesats, for 35 customers from 17 countries. The rideshare was organised by the American company Spaceflight Inc.

This launch will be the Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket’s third flight, after two re-entries. SpaceX will again try to capture the first stage of the rocket on its floating drone ship, ‘Just Read the Instructions’.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct dimensions of the satellite, 10-cm cube.

This report has been updated with news of the mission’s postponement.

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