BIS TECHNOVATORS | Duo Startup of IIT-Bombay Making India’s Space Dream Greener and Cheaper
Manastu Space has been founded by two alumni of IIT Bombay, Tushar Jadhav and Ashtesh Kumar. Tushar Jadhav, ex-DRDO Scientist, and a graduate (BTech, MTech) of Aerospace Engineering talked with Nitisha about its journey from a student to a founder of Manastu Space. In Manastu Space, they have recently created a safe satellite propulsion fuel, which is less toxic, compared to existing chemical-based satellite propulsion fuels. Here are the excerpts from the interview;
Q. From IIT Bombay to Manastu Space how was your journey? Please share your experience.
Well, the journey from IIT Bombay to Manastu Space has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. The story started when I joined IIT Bombay in 2009 and found out that there is a team in IITB building satellite and that instantly caught my attention. So I got into the team in my first year and in the fourth year in 2012 I became project manager. This is when Ashtesh joined the team and he was working on the onboard computer of the satellite. After a lot of hard work, hustle, ups and downs we finally launched the satellite on top of PSLV C35 into space. The day we saw our satellite getting launched in the space, is the day we realized this is one thing we want to do the rest of our life. That gave birth to Manastu Space in 2017.
Q. Can you elaborate about your green chemical propulsion system for satellites, how effective and productive it will be when compared contemporary satellites?
Space is a new platform to solve the problems on earth. Worldwide in the next 6 years, more satellites are planned than total satellites launched in human history. But we fear this will remain a distant dream. The fuel that is used in the satellites is twice more toxic and carcinogenic than the gas of Bhopal gas tragedy. It has already killed enough people and given them cancer. Hence this fuel has an expiry date of 2021 as the US and Europe government is planning to ban it like demonetization. Satellites will be powerless after that.
We at Manatsu Space, are solving the exact need and building worlds’ most efficient and least toxic fuel and engine system for satellites. Our innovation is the new fuel, new engine to burn this fuel and catalyst to start the ignition in the engine. Our fuel is only as toxic as common salt and noncarcinogenic and it can save satellite manufacturers up to 30% (as high as $12M per satellite) due to higher efficiency and less operations cost. This can save satellite manufacturer up to 30% of launch cost. Imagine earlier satellites of 2 ton, costing $40M in a launch with our fuel and engine, it weighs 1.5 ton and cost $28M saving 0.5 ton and $12M in launch cost.
Q. Your company is quite dedicated to human health. What plans have you made to succeed on this agenda?
Well, the fuel currently used in satellites called Hydrazine is extremely toxic and carcinogenic. It is 2 times toxic than Bhopal Gas Tragedy gas. People have died handling this fuel on the ground. Also, its fumes are also toxic and carcinogenic. The fuel that we have developed is as safe as common salt in terms of toxicity and easy to handle and non-carcinogenic. So, helping those people who handle, transport these chemicals.
Q. As covid19 has come as a big loss for human health, how does your company plan to deal with such situations?
Yes undoubtedly, the pandemic has been of great loss for complete humanity. In these testing times, few good things happened. First, thankfully everyone is safe and the company is alive. This has not been possible without voluntary pay cuts for those who can afford and supporting with more money who need it at that time and other restructuring and we are proud that all the team remain intact in this time, making resolve of bringing the access to space to each purse and person even stronger. Off course, our testing was closed and we took this time to reset the complete approach, question each and everything that we were doing and took the opportunity to figure out faster, better and reliable ways of doing things. We came up with Plan B, C, etc. for developing things if Plan A doesn’t work. So in all, as they say, ‘A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor’, ‘challenged free conditions never made a great team’
Q. Competitiveness is the key to be relevant in the market. How are you strategizing to innovate while keeping the cost in mind?
Well cost reduction in multiple ways; 1) alternative materials to current materials 2) simpler and cheaper manufacturing process 3) economy of scale 4) constant improvement in the efficiency and performance
Q. What are your future plans and are you planning to reach any new market in upcoming years?
Yes, geography wise yes, US Europe and Japan are 3 important markets that we are looking for first. Product-wise, we are focusing on making this commercial as soon as possible is currently the target.
Q. Any expectations from Indian Government?
- Ease of doing business in terms of setting up the facility, land acquisition, infrastructure development – To reduce time and cost
- More and more inclusion of startups in the Indian space and defence industry and more ways of supporting startups with facilities, know-how and funding etc.
- Clearer, simpler and business-friendly Space Policy
Q. Challenges and scopes in the Space industry?
Well, challenges are more like opportunities for the industry. So to sum up about scope and opportunity of space, we believe space is a platform with the potential to solve all the problems on the earth, at least a part of a problem. This is possible with imaging satellites, internet satellites, solar satellites etc. When we develop the technology for mars to generate say water and grow food, the same technology can be used in desserts of the word. So we believe, the scope of space industry is limited by ones imagination.
To road to this dream is filled with a lot of opportunities for industry including, reducing the cost of access to space, space debris, international rule-based exploration of space, fear of use space for destruction purposes etc. As they say, with the great power come great responsibilities it is the responsibility of all the industry, governments and all the individual to use space of peaceful purpose.