NEW DELHI: Desi space startup Skyroot Aerospace on Thursday achieved a major milestone as it “successfully test-fired India’s first privately built cryogenic rocket engine Dhawan-1”. Fuelled by LNG and LoX propellants, Dhawan-1 will be fixed in the upper stage of the company’s Vikram-2 rocket .
Founded in 2018 by former Isro scientists Pawan Kumar Chandana and Naga Bharath Daka, Skyroot Aerospace has been developing a series of three ‘Vikram’ rockets, named after Isro founder Vikram Sarabhai , which are designed especially for launching small satellites.
Chandana, co-founder and CEO of the Hyderabad-based company, said the made-in-India cryogenic engine has been developed using 3D printing with a superalloy, thus reducing manufacturing time by more than 95%.
“These are rocket propellants of the future, and this test makes us one of the very few companies in the world to have successfully demonstrated this technology,” he said.
Skyroot Aerospace has developed a mobile cryogenic engine test stand and tested the engine at a one-of-its-kind propulsion test facility at Solar Industries India Ltd, Nagpur.
Cryogenic engines are highly efficient rocket propulsion systems that use propellants at cryogenic temperatures (less than minus 150 deg C) and are highly suitable for upper stages of a rocket.
The development of this cryogenic engine is very challenging and so far only six countries, including the US, China, Russia, France, Japan and India, possess this technology. Isro has been using this technology to fire its GSLV rockets.
In mid-September this year, Skyroot became the first private company after the space reforms announced by the Modi government last year to sign an agreement with the Department of Space for getting “access to Isro’s launch facilities and expertise towards the development and testing of subsystems and systems of space launch vehicles”.
In December last year, the company successfully test-fired its Kalam-5 solid propulsion rocket engine, a larger version of which will be used to power the lower stages of its Vikram rocket. The company plans to launch its first rocket next year.
This year, Skyroot raised $11 million in its series A round of funding. “We intend to raise $40 million more to fund our aggressive growth plans over the next few years,” Naga Bharath Daka, co-founder and chief operating officer (COO), had said recently.