The DNA of XDLINX labs, can be traced backed to the small satellite storm which was erupted in the Bay area in 2017. 

Mr. Rupesh Gandupalli, CEO, XDLINX Labs has played a key role in not only flying the 88-satellites in an Indian PSLV, C-37 in February, 2017 but also was responsible for painstakingly procuring and putting together almost 2,013 components in each of those small satellites. When I was hearing the actual steps which were involved in opting PSLV for such a huge number of satellites; it amounted to “keeping all your eggs in one basket”, a crazy idea which busted the old saying and amply demonstrating the rookie nature that team had in becoming the only company which could control nearly 140-satellites in mid-2017; which even the American government could not do at that point of time. Having been the very first lot employees at that satellite company and coming with a rich experience of how to develop a unique product (at Apple Inc.,) which the world waits; waits literally at the gates of a mall over the night to grab one; Rupesh knew exactly what it takes to develop “that marvel”. 

As Rupesh set his foot on Indian soil in the early 2022; his goal was to leverage that Indian talent which would lead to frugal engineering in assembling the high end products. It is easily said than done; it took a great deal effort both in identifying those folks who have the potential to deliver the hardware and to motivate them to reach that “space-borne” grade. One must bear in mind that aerospace field is absolutely ruthless in not accommodating any weak link in the final product. Even a loose snapping of a connector could lead to the catastrophic results; as has been seen in both Indian and global space missions. The only solace was his hard-earned skills in building those innumerable satellites in Bay area; however even this experience may not be handy if one mistake was committed by a team member. So, the only choice he was left was to identify, train, motivate “that team” which does the job with 100% guarantee; not even 99%. 

Janus-1 Satellite built at XDLINX labs, Secunderabad, INDIA (first XDLINX laboratory)

Nothing comes close to the celebration of success. The Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) did it in its second attempt. Maybe, it was trying be part of ISRO heritage (2nd attempt of ASLV being successful) in February, 2023. Janus-1, a 6U category among the cubesats (10X20X30cm) weighing just around 10-kg, making it the largest nano-satellite which are built on the Indian soil (the others were 1U, 3U). 

Janus-1 is the brainchild of Karthik Govindasamy, Co-founder, CTO, Antaris, USA and his team. Ananth Technologies rendering its environmental test facilities, ATLAS Space operations provided all the necessary support in realizing this unique effort. The credit of putting all eggs (88-satellites) in in one basket lies with him; as he was the CTO of PLANET Labs then. It is at PLANET Labs., that Karthik; Rupesh in the capacity of procurement head optimized each and every process in making 300+ satellites. Karthik, a visionary in his own rites, realized that the only way ahead to jump forward in mass production of small satellites is to offer software-based procedures to test and validate the hardware subsystems. The new entity, Anataris is basically a software on cloud based platform for testing, validating the routinely used subsystems and complex nature payloads. The SatOS (Satellite Operating system) provides the API (Application Program Interface) and also incorporates open sourced Payload software development kit. This idea seems to be playing a vital role of reducing the building cost by 75% and making it twice faster to complete the process of building a small satellite. A case in point is Janus-1 itself; it took just around 10-months for the development which includes everything building from scratch. Janus-1 rides on the vast experience carried by the brains who have been part of PLANET LABS, Microsoft, CoreOS and Apple.

Rupesh, started his dream of realizing a satellite from absolute scratch, here in Secunderabad. Everything was to be literally raised from the ground. This includes a cleanroom, proper infrastructure for assembling the sub components, a descent laboratory to design, develop the sub-systems. the start was very humble, to say the least; but the motto was aimed at skies …as the says…

Small Satellites; Big Opportunities

From his vast experience of supply chain sourcing; he could couple the local and global vendors in the procurement various sub-components. Most notable among many developments is building a solar panel and the entire EPS, the electrical power supply. The data communication units, both ways had their own share of complexities which too were realized locally. While the satellite telemetry and telecommands were in S-band; data from the satellite was received in X-band. A unique and complex sub-component of Janus-1 is the attitude determination and control system, called ADCS which will aid in orienting the satellite towards ground with high degree of accuracy (0.02 degrees). Normally, ADCS is a luxury for the nano-satellite, however, it will play a vital role if one wants to raise the bar on achievable spatial resolution. What ADCS does is, by measuring the orientation of the satellite in space by virtue of a group of star sensors (and Sun), it aligns the satellite to a desirable orientation so that the earth observing sensors do their job and the solar panels soak energy from sun.

Finally, Janus-1 built locally, went through the rigorous environmental tests as per ISRO’s standards and finally launched from Indian soil. One may call Janus-1 as a “technology demonstrator”, but it is a smart satellite built on a heritage of highly expert brains. It had an objective to perform IoT experiments, ML/AI operations and laser based communications. As I complete this post; I can proudly say that, Janus-2 the next version is all getting its wings assembled to roar into the skies (January-2024). As a famous poet, Allama Iqbal said….

Tu Shaheen hai, Parwaz hai tera kaam, ….. Tere Saamne Assman aur bhi hai

It roughly makes it to:

You are that FALCON, which is destined to rule the skies; there are many more goals in front of you to achieve.

The Janus family has placed XDLINX on track to realize a 120-kg class satellite which is planned to be launched in Q4-2024; paving the way for XDLINX objective of building ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) platforms for national level sovereignty. 

-Dr. Syed Maqbool Ahmed, Principal Payload Scientist, XDLINX Labs.

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