India’s Pixxel launches its 1st commercial satellite Shakuntala with SpaceX

By Arya M Nair, Intern Reporter
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Indian Spacetech startup Pixxel has successfully launched its first commercial satellite named ‘Shakuntala’ with Elon Musk-owned SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket.

‘Shakuntala,’ Pixxel’s first fully-fledged satellite, features one of the highest resolution hyperspectral commercial cameras ever flown to space, bringing it one step closer to building a 24×7 health monitor for the planet, the company said in a statement.

Launched aboard SpaceX’s Transporter-4 mission from Cape Canaveral in the US, this puts the company within touching distance of its ambitious mission to assemble one of the world’s most advanced constellations of low-earth-orbit imaging satellites.

‘From being one of the very few finalists in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in 2017 to now launching our own satellites as part of SpaceX’s fourth dedicated rideshare mission, life has come full-circle for us,’ said Mr. Awais Ahmed, CEO of Pixxel.

Shakuntala (TD-2) weighs less than 15 kg and is capable of capturing orbital images in more than 150 bands of color from the visible and infrared spectrum with a resolution of 10-meters per pixel, further expanding the specificity of hyperspectral satellites launched by a few select organizations such as NASA, ESA, and ISRO.

Shakuntala will begin collecting data and exposing the unseen changes wreaking havoc on the globe, such as natural gas leakage, deforestation, ice melting, pollution, and declining crop health.

The launch follows Pixxel’s $25 million Series funding from Radical Ventures, Seraphim Space Capital, Relativity Space co-founder Jordan Noone, Lightspeed Partners, Blume Ventures, and Sparta, among others. It sets the stage for Pixxel’s first commercial phase satellites, to be launched in early 2023.

With six satellites flown in a sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) around a 550-km altitude, Pixxel’s hyperspectral constellation will be able to cover any point on the planet every 48 hours.

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