Google leads funding round for Indian space startup Pixxel

BENGALURU (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google is leading a $36 million funding round for Bengaluru-based Pixxel, a satellite imagery startup, in the first major investment in India’s space sector since the government took office. launched its privatization policy in April.

Pixxel, founded in 2019, builds a constellation of satellites that have the ability to identify mineral deposits or crop productivity by analyzing the spectral signature of an image.

Miner Rio Tinto Ltd and Australian agritech company DataFarming are customers, Pixxel said.

The startup has raised over $71 million from investors including Accenture PLC. Pixelxel did not specify the amount invested by Google or the valuation it reflected.

Google in India did not immediately respond to questions about the investment.

Founder and Managing Director Awais Ahmed said Pixxel would be “the most valued space technology company in India after this investment”.

It was rocket and launch vehicle supplier Skyroot Aerospace, valued at around $163 million, according to Tracxn, which tracks startups.

“We work with satellite data and Google works a lot around that with agriculture and the environment,” Ahmed told Reuters. “They also have Google Earth…so a combination of that allowed them to see an advantage.”

Pixxel is among many private companies looking for a boost since India opened up the space sector, encouraging startups to provide broadband services like Starlink and power apps like channel tracking. supply.

The government announced its space policy framework for the private sector in April.

The funding comes at a time when startups around the world are struggling to raise funds. Space startups, in particular, have come under pressure after Richard Branson’s launch company Virgin Orbit went bankrupt.

Ahmed said the funding would be used to expand his satellite network. Pixxel is preparing six satellites for launch next year to add to the three it has now and is looking to hire more engineers for its analyses.

Ahmed said he was inspired to launch a space startup from a visit to SpaceX by Elon Musk as part of a student competition to build a demonstration “hyperloop” transportation pod.

He and co-founder Kshitij Khandelwal set out to build an AI model that could use satellite data to predict crop yields, detect illegal mining and track natural disasters.

They launched Pixxel when they concluded that existing commercial satellite images did not provide enough detail. Pixxel’s satellites capture and analyze a broad spectrum of light instead of simply assigning primary colors to each pixel, a technology known as hyperspectral imaging.

(Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Kevin Krolicki and Christopher Cushing)

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