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IIT Madras partners with Vellon Space, an Indian start-up, to advance extra-terrestrial manufacturing R&D

IIT Madras partners with Vellon Space, an Indian start-up, to advance extra-terrestrial manufacturing R&D

  • 11th Mar 2024
  • Press Release

Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) is collaborating with Vellon Space, an Indian space start-up, to advance extra-terrestrial manufacturing research and development.

This collaboration marks a significant milestone in orbital 'Microgravity Research.' Vellon Space will receive a Technology Development Fund from IIT Madras to demonstrate its miniature space laboratory called 'AsteriX Lab', in orbit.

The IIT Madras research centre called 'Extra-Terrestrial Manufacturing' (ExTeM-IITM) is the pilot customer for this in-orbit demonstration mission of Vellon Space. The AsteriX Lab, during its demonstration, will undergo space qualification to conduct biological experiments, particularly in long-duration cell culture under Lower Earth Microgravity. This demonstration in space is expected to take place by 2025.

Highlighting the importance of this project, Prof. Sathyan Subbiah, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Madras, and Co-ordinator, ExTeM-IIT Madras, said, "This demonstration sows the seed for biomanufacturing in space which can revolutionize cell culture and drug development processes in space, ultimately leading to enhanced pharmaceuticals and better human health outcomes."

ExTeM-IITM is a group of researchers at IIT Madras teaming up to focus on developing technologies for manufacturing things in space - for space use and for use back on earth.

Domain expert in this project, Prof. G.K. Suraishkumar, Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras and Co-Principal Investigator of Phase 02 of ExTeM, said, "It is indeed satisfying to contribute to the capability demonstration of biological experiments in space. They contribute toward producing superior products in space for use on Earth or for use during space flights. This collaboration could include significant advancements in understanding microgravity's effects on biological systems, innovations in drug development processes, and the creation of commercial opportunities in the space technology sector."

Elaborating further, Mr. Ajay Kumar, Founder and CEO, Vellon Space, said, "There is a strategic alignment of expertise and resources in this partnership. This joint effort will not only drive scientific advancements but also pave the way for future endeavours in In-Space Manufacturing."

The IoE Research Centre on Extra Terrestrial Manufacturing (ExTeM) currently operational at IIT Madras fills in a big lacuna currently in the space-related manufacturing research. While technologies are being developed for manufacturing launch vehicles, satellites, among other things, the near future will require technologies that will enable manufacturing products and assemblies in space for use in space and for use back in the earth.

This collaboration between IIT Madras and Vellon Space represents a fusion of innovation and vision, poised to unlock the full potential of space technology and propel humanity into a new era of exploration and discovery.