Hyderabad-based private space startup, Skyroot Aerospace, successfully launched its maiden demonstrator mission — conducting a suborbital launch of its Vikram-S rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh earlier today. The demonstrator, which carried three non-deployable payloads to a peak height of 89.5 kilometres above Earth, was launched at 11:30AM, and successfully completed its intended trajectory by splashing down into the Bay of Bengal — more than seven minutes into the mission.
The mission was a technology demonstrator — which is typically the initial space mission conducted by space firms prior to taking up commercial missions. This is a regular procedure, and was most recently followed in India by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) for the launch of its Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV)’s D1 mission. The latter did not turn out to be a success, with a glitch in the payload deployer failing to inject its onboard satellites in intended orbits.
The Skyroot mission earlier today was enabled by India’s draft space communications policy, which opened up the domestic space sector for private sector participation. The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (In-Space), a nodal authorisation body under the Union government’s Department of Space (DoS), authorized Skyroot to conduct the launch mission, with Isro offering its facilities to the company under a transfer of technology clause that is expected to be part of India’s eventual Space Policy.
Industry stakeholders said that the success of Skyroot’s first mission would help validate India’s fledgling private space sector. Anil Kumar Bhatt, director general of industry body Indian Space Association, said that the successful launch of the Vikram-S rocket would “validate most of the technologies in the Vikram series of space launch vehicles planned by Skyroot in the coming years.”
The mission is a precursor to commercial launch missions that Skyroot Aerospace is expected to undertake next year, alongside other homegrown space firms such as Agnikul Cosmos. At the launch event of Vikram-S, a spokesperson for In-Space said that a similar demonstrator launch for Agnikul Cosmos’ domestically built satellite launcher, Agnibaan, is also expected to take place within the coming months.
The Vikram-S launcher was powered by the Kalam-80 solid propellant motor. Last week, at the announcement of the mission, Pawan Chandana, chief executive of Skyroot Aerospace, told Mint that the Kalam-80 is a different version of the Kalam-100 motor that is expected to be used in the firm’s Vikram-I rocket — expected to be the first commercial satellite deployer for the company.
Chandana further added that the engine features a 3D printed carbon fiber build, and the launch event that took place today successfully validated the company’s composite fiber-built solid fuel motor technologies. In June this year, the executive had confirmed that the company 3D prints its engines from additive manufacturing facilities in Bengaluru and Chennai. Once demand builds up, Skyroot would also look to build its own 3D printing engine manufacturing facility — akin to what Agnikul Cosmos unveiled in July this year.