Rohan M Ganapathy, left, Bellatrix Aerospace’s co-founder and CEO, stands with Yashas Karanam, co-founder and chief operating officer. Credit: Bellatrix Aerospace

SEOUL, South Korea — Indian space startup Bellatrix Aerospace said June 1 that it had raised $8 million in a Series A funding round to pursue the development of in-space propulsion systems. Including $3 million raised in pre-Series A in June 2019, Bellatrix has raised $11 million since its establishment in 2015. Investors include StartupXseed, Pavestone Capital, Mankind Pharma family office, Survam Partners and Karsemven Fund. Several angel investors and family offices joined the latest funding round, the company said in a June 1 statement.

“In the past ten years, the number of satellites in space has increased almost tenfold and based on announced private-sector missions is likely to multiply rapidly in the next ten years,” the company said in the statement. “In-space propulsion systems that save costs and use more environmentally friendly technologies are increasingly relevant to the growing satellite market.” The company added orbital transfer vehicles are becoming a “new means of reaching orbit on rideshare missions for micro and small satellites.” Bellatrix is developing an orbital transfer vehicle based on its in-space propulsion technologies as part of its efforts to become a full-fledged space transportation technology company.

In the statement, Rohan M Ganapathy, Bellatrix’s co-founder and CEO, said the pre-Series A funding helped the company develop “numerous critical technologies in-house.” The latest funding will help his company expand the product portfolio, hire new employees and validate its products in space. The chief executive said the company plans to complete the development and test of four home-developed thruster modules by the end of the year. The company is also planning to complete space qualification testing of its under-development orbital transfer vehicle “in the coming months.”

While Bellatrix didn’t elaborate on how the space qualification test will be performed, it’s likely that the vehicle will be launched aboard a rocket developed by another Indian space startup Skyroot Aerospace. The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding in February 2021, under which Bellatrix’s orbital transfer vehicle is supposed to launch on a rocket that Skyroot is developing. The latter, founded in 2018 by former scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is developing a small satellite launcher named Vikram 1. It’s a solid-fueled, three-stage satellite launcher designed to deliver up to 500 kilograms of payload to low Earth orbit, and 500 kilograms to sun-synchronous polar orbit, according to the company’s website.

Skyroot successfully carried out a full-duration test of Vikram 1’s third stage in May, which lasted 108 seconds with a peak thrust of 100 kN. Test firings of the rocket’s first and second stages are expected in the coming months because the company targets Vikram I’s maiden flight by the end of the year and the first commercial orbital mission early next year.

Park Si-soo covers space industries in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. Park worked at The Korea Times — South Korea's leading English language newspaper — from 2007 to 2020. He earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Korea...