CHENNAI: Chennai-based spacetech firm Agnikul Cosmos has become the second startup in India to sign an MoU with the Department of Space to access the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) facilities to test its launch vehicle subsystems.
The IIT Madras-incubated start-up is building India’s first private small satellite rocket named ‘Agnibaan’, which will carry a payload of up to 100 kg to low Earth orbits up to 700 km with a plug-and-play engine configuration. This on-demand rocket can be fully customised to customers’ needs at an affordable cost. Earlier this year, Agnikul successfully test fired the world’s first 3D-printed rocket engine — Agnilet.
The Department of Space entered into a similar agreement with Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace last week for access to ISRO facilities and expertise for developing and testing subsystems/systems of space launch vehicles.
SR Chakravarthy, one of the advisors for Agnikul, and head of the National Centre for Combustion Research and Development (NCCRD), IIT Madras, told TNIE that Agnibaan has entered the critical phase and getting access to ISRO facilities at this juncture is a short in the arm.
“Agnibaan will be a two-stage rocket. We have completed the second stage, for which sub-orbital tests will be conducted shortly at an ISRO centre. The qualifying test of one of the six identical 3D-printed engines is also being planned. Stage separation and full flight tests are also in the pipeline,” Chakravarthy said.
Srinath Ravichandran, CEO of Agnikul, who signed the Framework MoU from the company’s side, told TNIE the launch is expected in the second half of next year. “Overall, we have improved Agnibaan’s reliability by cutting it down from a three-stage to two-stage rocket without tinkering with its payload capability. This means the cost of manufacturing will come down. Multiple tests are planned,” he said.
Thanking the government for opening-up ISRO facilities to private players for testing, Ravichandran said creating such infrastructure is capital intensive and would be difficult for startup firms.
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