BANGALORE: In a technology with potential for far-reaching applications in varied fields ranging from biotechnology and pharmaceutical to defence and space launches, Vellon Space, an Indian start-up is working on a platform that will act as a “micro space station” — providing “microgravity lab” for experiments and bringing the same back.

“We are working on two other platforms or services. One will allow companies or agencies to carry out micro rocket launches from a high altitude and the other can be used to place payloads in the stratosphere,” Ajay Kumar, founder-CEO of the firm, which was among the first to register with regulator-and-promoter Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), told TOI.

He added that the firm has already filed a patent application for one of its technologies, while work on its deep-tech platform that is critical for all three proposed platforms, is ongoing.

Arguing that Space is an endless repository of information that assists scientists answer important questions, Kumar said that while Space allows testing validity of scientific theories created on Earth, access to a microgravity environment is limited.

The Tech

“We’re out to change this with its three offerings: Vellon Space-Lab; Vellon Eye and Vellon Orbit,” Kumar said. The Space-Lab will be a stabilised platform for conducting microgravity-based research and manufacturing — a micro space station that can aid non-human/automated experiments.

“It’s a mini laboratory or automated factory in space, measuring roughly the dimensions of a (Tata) Nano car. We’re creating an end-to-end space-platform-as-a-service with state-of-the-art technology available globally. This service can give India access to ‘indigenous’ space applications,” Kumar said.

According to Vellon, Indian pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, defence research, nanotechnology companies, microchips industries can all benefit from this.

“The list is endless. Who would have imagined that when the internet first started that we would order pizza using it? Space is the new Internet waiting to explode,” Kumar said.

Vellon Eye, the other offering, will be an aloft platform that remains in the stratosphere and is completely reusable and recoverable. This will enable a highly flexible platform for conducting any kind of commercial and defence activities.

“Also, being away from the sea level also reduces infrastructure, time taken for the mission and launches, and cost. Once the mission gets completed, the entire platform comes back to the ground with the precise landing,” Kumar explained.

Vellon Orbit will be a high-altitude launch platform for providing launch-as-a-service for small satellites. It will launch micro launchers into orbit from anywhere, he said, adding it can act as “a carrier high-altitude balloon-based platform and serve as a fully automated and reusable launch platform.”

Why The Platforms

“Today, our understanding of phenomena like gravity (or the lack of it), the magnetosphere, atmosphere, and fluid dynamics is greater than it has ever been. Access to microgravity is vital for scientific experiments and testing and demonstrating future aerospace technologies, and providing this is what we want to do,” Kumar said.

Materials tested in space, under unique conditions that are difficult to replicate on Earth, can help develop stronger, lighter, higher-performance products, he said, citing an example of one of the experiments conducted by French ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet on the International Space Station (ISS) — testing innovative materials designed to prevent bacterial growth.

While Vellon has carried out extensive market research whose results support market readiness and demand, the firm is expected to encounter initial technical hurdles, which include concept proofing, primary design review, and technical assessment of the platform.

“Yes, there are challenges because what we are offering is unique and requires state-of-the-art technology. However, we are confident of overcoming these hurdles. At present we are boot-strapped and are expecting some funding,” Kumar said.