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Chennai start-up building India's first private smallsat rocket, eyes ISRO help for testing

Srinath Ravichandran, co-founder and CEO, Agnikul Cosmos, confirmed to The New Indian Express that the rocket would be ready by 2022

Published: 30th June 2020 07:13 PM  |   Last Updated: 30th June 2020 07:13 PM   |  A+A-

ISRO

For representational purposes (Photo | ISRO)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Chennai start-up Agnikul Cosmos is building India's first private small satellite rocket and will be seeking the help of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for conducting tests.

The IIT Madras incubated start-up received a much needed boost with the announcement of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), an autonomous body under the Department of Space, which would help private prayers gain access to ISRO infrastructure.

Named 'Agnibaan', the rocket will be a two-stage LOX/Kerosene vehicle with a third "baby stage". The launch vehicle will be capable of carrying up to 100 kg of payload to low Earth orbits up to 700 km with a plug-and-play engine configuration.

Srinath Ravichandran, co-founder and CEO, Agnikul Cosmos, confirmed to The New Indian Express that the rocket would be ready by 2022.

"We have realised the engine for the upper stage or third stage and design work is on for the first and second stage engines of the rocket. Seven identical engines using 3D printing will be fitted to the first stage, while one engine each will be used for the second and third stages. Basically, it will be a modular rocket that can be customised depending on the client's requirement," Ravichandran said and added that the vehicle will be powered by semi-cryogenic fuel.

The rocket height will be 18 metres and it would weigh about 13 tons at lift-off. The start-up has raised Rs 26 crore recently from various sources, which will be used for ground testing, fabrication and expanding the team. The company is operating out of the National Centre for Combustion Research and Development (NCCRD) at IIT Madras.

SR Chakravarthy, head of NCCRD and founder-adviser of Agnikul, told The New Indian Express that ISRO help would be needed during the testing stage. "We have to do something called 'static tests', where individual rocket stages will be fired on the ground under controlled conditions. In view of safety and security, we would prefer to use ISRO testing facilities and this is where the role of IN-SPACe would come in handy."

Ravichandran said the whole purpose of 'Agnibaan' was to eliminate the long wait periods for nano and micro satellite launch. Presently, small satellites are carried as piggyback luggage by bigger rockets. "We will be able to build a rocket within two weeks from the date of order and it can be launched from any launch site," Ravichandran said.

Besides Agnikul, there are two other Indian start-ups working on building small satellite vehicles. Bellatrix is building a 'Chetak' launch vehicle designed to deliver a 50 kg payload. The other start-up is Skyroot, which is working on the 'Vikram' series of launch vehicles.

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