Indian firm Agnikul Cosmos is on its way to becoming the first in the country to privately design, develop and launch a liquid-fuelled rocket.
Liquid-fuelled rockets are much more complicated to design and build, when compared to solid-fuelled rockets.
Agnikul is targeting to launch their maiden rocket known as ‘Agnibaan SOrTeD’ (SubOrbital Technological Demonstrator) within a few weeks, the firm said.
Suborbital launches are meant to take the vehicle to the earth’s upper atmosphere and not venture into space. Suborbital launches are the preferred method for startups to test and validate their maiden rocket, related sub-systems and thereby progress to more ambitious launch vehicle projects.
According to the firm, ‘Agnibaan SOrTeD’ is a single-stage launch vehicle driven by Agnikul’s patented Agnilet engine- an entirely 3D-printed, single-piece, 6kN semi-cryogenic engine.
Unlike traditional (solid-fuelled) sounding rockets that launch from guide rails, Agnibaan SOrTeD will lift off vertically and follow a predetermined trajectory while performing a precisely orchestrated set of manoeuvres during flight, they added.
In the presence of ISRO and IN-SPACe officials, members of the Agnikul team unveiled their launch vehicle at Agnikul’s Mission Control Centre (AMCC), in the Indian Government-run spaceport, Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
Notably, Agnikul also has India’s first private rocket launch pad, housed within the same campus.
“Delighted to see the progress Agnikul team has made so far. They have our best wishes to have a successful first flight and further activities”, said A. Rajarajan, Director of SDSC-SHAR, at the event where the vehicle was unveiled.
According to Srinath Ravichandran, co-founder and CEO of Agnikul, this upcoming suborbital launch is meant to validate Agnikul’s proprietary autopilot, navigation, and guidance algorithms and the capability of their launchpad to undertake more complex missions.
Moin SPM, co-founder and COO of Agnikul, said, “Building a launch vehicle entails the integration of diverse systems, and coming together of various teams spanning different disciplines uniting towards a common goal. This vehicle standing on the launchpad is a testament of everyone’s hard work in the team.”
Agnikul was established in 2017 by Srinath Ravichandran, Moin SPM, and Prof. SR Chakravarthy, who hail from IIT Madras.
The firm’s primary objective is to democratise space exploration by making it both accessible and cost-effective.
The firm had been targeting a maiden launch by September 2022, but owing to the complexities and engineering sophistication involved in kerosene-liquid oxygen rockets, the firm has overshot their initial target by a year.
Notably, this will be the first kerosene-liquid oxygen (semi-cryogenic) rocket to be designed, developed and launched from India.
Meanwhile, the Indian space agency ISRO is also testing its own semi-cryogenic engine, but its engine is exponentially more powerful and sophisticated than that of the private firm.
ISRO’s SCE-2000 is meant to significantly enhance the lifting power of India’s LVM3 rocket.