The next leg of the space race is taking off in India, where space technology start-ups are advancing innovation and attracting investor interest.

Satellites, rockets, propulsion and other support systems capable of powering space missions for a range of industries are being developed by Indian start-ups. India is a leading space power with a rich pool of talent; however the government has held a near-monopoly in the sector for decades. This is changing, with over a dozen space technology start-ups cropping up in recent years. Their success in raising funds reveals a rise in private space investment in the country.

One example is Bengaluru-based Bellatrix Aerospace, which is working on electric and non-toxic chemical thrusters for propelling satellites into orbit. Co-founder Yashas Karanam said the firm has secured $3 million in pre-Series A round funding, led by venture capital fund IDFC Parampara. Its seven investors include the family office of Suman Kant Munjal and Bollywood star Deepika Padukone. “No venture capital firm which does tech investments in India has invested an amount of this size in space technology before,” said Narayan Prasad, co-founder of Satsearch.

Another start-up, Mumbai-based Kawa Space, designs and operates earth observation satellites. It has closed a seed round of an undisclosed amount, said Vishesh Rajaram of Speciale Invest, one of the investors. Seven space technology companies in India are funded, Reuters reports, citing start-up data tracker Tracxn and interviews with investors. “There is money to be made,” said Rajaram. “These are exciting times for lots of entrepreneurs.” Speciale Invest has invested in three space start-ups in India.

India’s start-up scene overall is thriving, with about two dozen firms becoming unicorns in the past five years. Space start-ups are a new breed, and space investment is gaining serious traction as global interest in space exploration surges. A number of satellite launches are planned in the near future. This is fuelling investor confidence, said Bellatrix investor Jatin Desai of Parampara Capital, which formed IDFC Parampara with lender IDFC. “That gives us a large addressable potential market,” Desai said.

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