It’s a good day for India’s space enthusiasts.
Private sector rocket maker Skyroot Aerospace Private Ltd, based in Hyderabad, announced that it had completed the full duration test-firing of India’s first-ever privately designed and developed rocket for commercial missions — Vikram-1.
This stage of the test, called ‘Kalam-100’ after renowned Indian rocket scientist and former president Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, was done on 5 May 2022 at Solar Industries, Nagpur. With this, the company is on track to launch its first entire rocket.
All about Vikram-1
Vikram-1 is Skyroot Aerospace’s small-lift launch vehicle, aiming to have a payload capacity of 225 kg to 500 km for launching small satellites.
Its name has been derived from the Father of the Indian space program, Vikram Sarabhai.
As per reported information, Vikram-1 has three solid fuel-powered stages. Each stage has a burn time ranging between 80 and 108 seconds.
According to an IANS report, the rocket stage is built with a high-strength carbon fiber structure, solid fuel, Ethylene-Propylene-Diene terpolymers (EPDM) thermal protection system, and carbon ablative nozzle.
After the test, Pawan Kumar Chandana, co-founder and CEO of Skyroot Aerospace, said, “Can’t wait to see this fly soon.”
The men behind Vikram-I
Vikram-I is the brainchild of Skyroot Aerospace Private Ltd. The company based in Hyderabad was founded in 2018 by a team that includes rocket engineers who previously worked at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), including CEO and co-founder Pawan Kumar Chandana.
Skyroot’s mission statement, as per their website, is: ‘Affordable, On-demand and reliable ride to space.’
It adds, “We are on a mission to open space for all by pushing the boundaries of Today’s technology. We are working towards a future where space becomes part of our lives, and such a transition will transform humankind like never before.”
Skyroot’s co-founder is Pawan Chandana, who previously worked at ISRO. He worked on the GSLV Mk-III, the giant rocket made in India, for five years during his stint there. He also worked as a System Engineer for the world’s third-largest solid rocket stage, S200, the booster rocket for GSLV Mk-3.
In previous interviews, the IIT-Kharagpur alumnus said he had no qualms about choosing ISRO over going abroad for further studies.
“Without any thought, I attended the interview and luckily got selected. I was fortunate to get in despite a comparatively low academic performance—the three others chosen were among the batch toppers,” he was quoted as telling India Today, adding that it was his experience at ISRO learning about rocketry where he realized he could develop it privately like SpaceX and Rocket Lab are doing abroad.
In 2018, he left ISRO and, along with Naga Bharath Daka, founded Skyroot Aerospace Private Ltd. Daka is an IIT-Madras alumnus, and he too worked in ISRO. While at India’s premier space agency, he worked as a Flight Computer Engineer at VSSC and has built hardware and firmware for multiple key onboard computer modules that implement the launch vehicle’s sequencing, navigation, control, and guidance functions.
On the rocket, Daka was quoted as saying, “This is best in class rocket stage of this size, with record propellant loading and firing duration, and using the all-carbon composite structure for delivering the best performance.”
Chandana,31, also considered by many to be India’s Elon Musk, believes that there’s a vast untapped market in aerospace.
“The future is in small satellites for observation and communication through small rockets — India has just a two percent share in this $370 billion business,” he has said.
Let’s see if his soaring ambitions bear fruit, and India also is soon able to launch private rockets into space — a la SpaceX!