From dreaming about oceans in Port Blair to building rockets for Agnikul, Saraniya’s journey

As a Vehicle Director Saraniya worked on several aspects from the initial design development of the rocket to producing a working vehicle.


Published Jun 30, 2024 | 5:42 PM Updated Jul 09, 2024 | 10:55 AM

Agnibaan Sub-Orbital Technology Demonstrator (SOrTeD)

From dreaming about the immense possibilities offered by ocean studies while growing up in Port Blair to being at the helm of building rockets to put satellites in orbit, it has been a formidable learning curve for Saraniya Periaswamy, a young engineer at the Chennai-based space start-up Agnikul Cosmos.

The 30-year-old Saraniya is in charge of development of the 3-D printed launch vehicle – Agnibaan Sub-Orbital Technology Demonstrator (SOrTeD) – that had its first flight on 30 May, overcoming a series of challenges over more than a two-month period.

The launch of Agnibaan-SOrTeD was first scheduled on 22 March, but had to be put on hold on 20 May after “certain minor observations from the full countdown rehearsals.”

“Whenever a launch is held, there is a lot of external pressure. Everyone is looking forward to the launch and if you are unable to pull it through, it is not like you are failing somewhere. But, it becomes a little difficult at that time,” Saraniya told PTI on the sidelines of the India Space Congress organised by SIA-India in Delhi.

Saraniya did her schooling and graduation in Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the place of her birth. She studied civil engineering at the Dr BR Ambedkar Institute of Technology, Port Blair and did her masters in ocean technology from IIT-Madras.

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Agnikul Cosmos took shape at the IIT-Madras campus under the guidance of Satyanarayan Chakravarthy, the Head of the National Centre for Combustion Research and Development.

Saraniya, who had studied oil rigs, offshore engineering, and naval architecture as part of her masters course, started her career in Agnikul as a systems engineer, in charge of the oversight of the launch systems. “I started off studying systems first because I had to get some knowledge and understand the different parts of a rocket,” she said.

As a Vehicle Director, Saraniya worked on several aspects from the initial design development of the rocket to producing a completely working vehicle.

“There are different sub-systems in the vehicle. Getting all the sub-systems done, integrating them correctly, carrying out a functionality test on each and every sub-component and then integrating the complete vehicle into the launch pad falls within the domain of the Vehicle Director,” she said.

A unique offering from Agnikul is its mobile launchpad ‘Dhanush’ which allows small satellites to be put in orbit from literally anywhere on land. “Designing this was not easy. The launchpad and the vehicle had to be structurally mobile. The vehicle also had to be made easy to move around safely. Also, the vehicle was designed to use easily available fuel – aviation grade fuel and industrial oxygen,” Saraniya said.

After the successful launch of technology demonstrator Agnibaan SOrTeD, Saraniya and her colleagues have started working on developing the orbital rocket to place satellites in low earth orbit.

“I was not very sure that I could go to the space industry without having any background,” she said, adding that she was enjoying every bit of time spent developing and building rockets.

After six years in Agnikul, Saraniya now believes that every stream of engineering and even non-engineering fields have a role to play in the space industry.

“Rocketry is basically clubbing every stream of engineering. So, if you have the willpower, you will be able to achieve whatever you want,” Saraniya said in a message to youngsters interested in exploring opportunities in the space industry.

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