Aerospace startup, Skyroot Aerospace has become the first private company in India to successfully test the upper stage of the rocket engine – paving way for a full-scale homegrown rocket. This test is significant as the upper stage of the engine powers the final thrusts of the rocket for the insertion of the payloads into the target orbit.
The Hyderabad-based company is founded by former engineers of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) – Pawan Kumar Chandana and Naga Bharath Daka. Skyroot tweeted: “No better day than Dr. Vikram Sarabhai’s birthday to announce our successful test firing of our Vikram-1 Launch vehicle’s upper stage Engine-Raman.”
No better day than Dr. Vikram Sarabhai's birthday to announce our successful test firing of our Vikram-1 Launch vehicle's upper stage Engine-Raman.
Four Raman engines with multi-start capability produce a thrust of 3.4kN and inserts multiple satellites into orbit. pic.twitter.com/uF9ETTBSTc
— Skyroot Aerospace (@SkyrootA) August 12, 2020
Skyroot is working on its ‘Vikram’ series of satellites. The company has revealed that it is planning to test two more rocket stages over the next six months. The fourth and final stage of the rocket engine will take a year to be tested. Should everything go according to the plan, the first test launch of the rocket called ‘Vikram-I’ will take place in December 2021. This rocket will be able to launch satellites weighing 250-700 kgs in the lower orbit of Earth. If the test launch is successful, Skyroot will work on multiple launch vehicles to deploy satellites into space.
Skyroots’ upper stage rocket engine marks India’s first 3-D printed Cryogenic rocket engine which is supplied with high-performance propellants like Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) and Liquid Oxygen. These fuels require extremely low temperatures to stay in the liquid state. This is of crucial importance owing to the drastic temperature drops in the outer space. The liquified form of the fuel helps it to combust efficiently while accounting for the lack of oxygen in outer space.
The test holds evidence of the company’s technological demonstration of India’s first-ever 100 percent 3-D printed bi-propellant liquid rocket engine ejector or the Orbit Adjustment Module (OAM) which provides orbit adjust propulsion to insert several satellites into multiple orbits in a single mission. Multiple restarts of the engine will enable the deployment of the satellites. Compared to conventional production, the new model will decrease the average weight by 50% by reducing the total number of components and lead time by 80%.
Naga Bharath Daka stated:
Skyroot has already secured ₹31.5 crores in funding. It is further expecting to raise ₹90 crores over the next year.
INDIAN PRIVATE SPACE SECTOR
In June 2020, the Union Cabinet approved the participation of the private space sector to fuel Indian space missions and planetary exploration.
This decision was taken weeks after the announcement made by Nirmala Sitharaman that the space sector will be open to the private space companies. A government statement also proclaimed that the doorway to planetary exploration missions will be open to the private space through the ‘Announcement of Opportunity’ (AO) mechanism. This mechanism solicits proposals from Indian scientists and institutes based on a given criteria. The statement noted:
In June, the Union Cabinet also approved the establishment of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe). The body will regulate and promote the development of spacecraft and other launch services by Indian companies.
Private sector participation in Space activities has also been approved by the Modi Government, this historic reform will unlock India's true space potential. IN-SPACe will accelerate growth of the space sector by promoting and guiding private industries in space activities.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) June 24, 2020
Union Cabinet Minister, Jitendra Singh assured that the government will also promote and direct the private companies in the space sector through a pleasant regulatory environment and encouraging policies.
Luckily, the pandemic has not affected the long-term goals of some of the leading private space companies. The crisis has only pushed the demand to launch satellites in order to meet the high data requirement during teleconferences and work from home.
The reforms from the Government’s side seem to have boosted the confidence of the private companies. This is of utmost importance because private players like SpaceX are already conquering space activities. Accordingly, rendering support to these private companies will reflect in the good books of Indian space exploration and ISRO.