India’s first private player to successfully test a homegrown rocket engine is on track for its first full rocket launch by 2021

Illustration of Skyroot Aerospace's rocket which will face its launch test in December 2021Skyroot Aerospace
  • Skyroot Aerospace is the first private company in India to successfully test launch a homegrown rocket engine.
  • The company’s co-founder Pawan Kumar Chandana told Business Insider that Skyroot Aerospace is on track to test-launch its first full rocket by December 2021.
  • Two more rocket stages will be tested within the next six months.
"We will be one of India’s first private launch vehicle makers,” Skyroot Aerospace co-founder Naga Bharath Daka said in April 2019. One year down the line, the Indian startup is the first private company in India to have successfully launched a homegrown rocket engine.

It is not an entire rocket yet, but the company plans to have that off the ground as well by December next year, CEO and co-founder of Skyroot Aerospace Pawan Kumar Chandana told Business Insider. Chandana and Daka are both former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientists.

In another six months, the company aims to test two more rocket stages. The fourth and final stage will take another year to test.

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In December 2021, the first rocket will be tested. If it passes the test, Skyroot Aerospace has plans to build an entire family of Vikram rockets to send satellites into space.

Successful test of the upper stage rocket engine
“It [the rocket] is a three-stage rocket with a small liquid module, which is called the orbit adjustment model. The engines tested today belong to the orbit adjustment model,” Chandana told Business Insider.

The upper stage rocket engine powers the final thrusts of a spacecraft as it positions satellites into the Earth’s orbit.

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Skyroot Aerospace’s upper stage rocket engine is India’s first entirely 3-D printed one. The engine will run on high-performance cryogenic propellants — fuels that require extremely low temperatures to stay liquid — like liquid natural gas (LNG) and liquid oxygen.

The reason rockets need cryogenic propellants is that temperatures drop drastically in outer space. Outside the Earth’s atmosphere, there is also a lack of oxygen, so the element’s liquified form helps the fuel combust or burn.

One launch, multiple orbits
The test of the upper rocket stage demonstrated the capabilities of the orbit adjustment model, also called the 3D-printed bi-propellant liquid rocket engine ejector. It reduced the overall mass of the upper stage by 50%, reduced the total number of components required, and cut down on lead time by 80%.

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The bigger factor is that it is capable of multiple restarts. This means it can insert different satellites across varied orbits in a single mission.

Skyroot Aerospace’s investors include Myntra and CureFit founder Mukesh Bansal, Vendashu Investments, and others. It has raised ₹ 31.5 crore so far and is in the process of bringing in another ₹ 90 crore this year.



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