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Researchers at IIT-Madras to focus on extraterrestrial manufacturing

The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-Madras) has joined forces with a startup to propel research and development in extraterrestrial manufacturing. Vellon Space, an Indian startup, is set to receive technology development funding from the institute to showcase a miniature space laboratory known as Asterix Lab in orbit.

The institute’s research center, known as ‘Extra-terrestrial manufacturing’ (ExTeM-IITM), stands as the inaugural customer for the in-orbit demonstration mission. ExTeM-IIT M comprises a group of researchers at the institute who have united their efforts to concentrate on developing technologies for manufacturing items in space, with applications both in space and on Earth


Asterix Lab is slated to undergo space qualification to facilitate biological experiments, particularly focusing on long-duration cell culture under lower Earth microgravity conditions. The researchers aim to demonstrate this capability in space by the year 2025.

Sathyan Subbiah, coordinator of ExTeM-IIT Madras and a professor in the mechanical engineering department, expressed that the demonstration would lay the groundwork for biomanufacturing in space, potentially revolutionizing cell culture and drug development processes in space, thereby enhancing pharmaceuticals and improving human health outcomes.

G.K. Suraishkumar, a professor in biotechnology at the institute and a domain expert in the project, serves as the co-principal investigator of Phase 02 of the project. He highlighted the potential for significant advancements through the collaboration, including a deeper understanding of microgravity’s effects on biological systems, innovations in drug development methodologies, and the creation of commercial opportunities within the space technology sector.

Ajay Kumar, the founder of Vellon Space, emphasized the strategic alignment of expertise and resources fostered by the partnership.

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