India’s first privately developed rocket lifts off successfully from Sriharikota

Hyderabad-based start-up Skyroot Aerospace joined the elite club of players in the private sector space race with the launch of Vikram-S.

BySumit Jha

Published Nov 18, 2022 | 11:37 AM Updated Nov 18, 2022 | 2:36 PM

Vikram-S blasts off from Sriharikota on Friday, 18 November (Screen grab).

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched the country’s first rocket developed by a private firm on Friday, 18 November.

The rocket, Vikram-S, blasted off at five times the speed of sound from ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh at 11.30 am.

With the launch, Hyderabad-based start-up, Skyroot Aerospace Private Limited, joined the elite group of global companies in the private sector space race.

The launch, Mission Prarambh, was part of the country’s ambitious plan to encourage private players to join space research programmes.

Vikram-S, a single-stage spin-stabilised solid propellant six-metre rocket weighing approximately 545kg went to an altitude of 89.5 km before turning around and splashing into the Bay of Bengal 121 km off the Andhra coast in just about 300 seconds or 5 minutes.

“(I am) Happy to announce the successful completion of Mission Prarambh. The rocket, Vikram-S, achieved an altitude of 89.5 km and a range of 121.2 km, exactly as planned by Skyroot Aerospace”, Pawan Kumar Goenka, Chairman of In-SPACe, declared.

The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre, abbreviated as IN–SPACe, is a single-window autonomous agency under the central government’s Department of Space. All systems worked as planned. The aerospace company has demonstrated the capability of various sub-systems that will go into the orbital launch vehicle,” he added.

The initial launch date was 15 November, but a revised launch window was provided due to bad weather conditions.

The countdown for the launch began at 8.30 am, three hours before the lift-off from the Sound Rocket Launch Pad.

The countdown time was short since Vikram-S was a small rocket, powered by solid fuel.

About 25 seconds after the lift-off, the engine burnout took place at an altitude of 17.9 km and the three payloads were ejected at an altitude of 81.5 km. The payloads were from Space Kidz India, Bazoomq Armenia and N-Space Tech India.

“We made history today by launching India’s first private rocket. It is a symbol of a new India, and just the #Prarambh of a great future,” Pawan Kumar Chandana, Co-Founder of Skyroot Aerospace, exulted in the successful launch.

Skyroot

Skyroot Aerospace, a two-time national award winner, is the first Indian startup to sign an MoU with ISRO. (Supplied)

Skyroot Aerospace said Vikram-S was a single-stage sub-orbital launch vehicle that carried three customer payloads and it helped in testing and validating most of the technologies in the Vikram series of space launch vehicles.

The firm added that Vikram was the world’s first rocket entirely built with a carbon fibre structure.

Skyroot takeoff

The Skyroot rocket Vikram-S soon after blast-off. (Supplied)

Skyroot Aerospace, a two-time national award winner, is the first Indian start-up to sign a memorandum of understanding with the ISRO for sharing the latter’s facilities and expertise.

Union Minister of State for Science and Technology, Atomic Energy, and Space Dr Jitendra Singh was present when the rocket lifted off through a heavy plume of smoke.

“It is indeed the new beginning, new dawn, new ‘Prarambh’ in India’s space programme journey. Many thanks to PM Modiji for opening up the space sector for public-private participation. It is a major step forward for India to develop its own space ecosystem and the turning point in India’s startup moment”, the minister said.

“Thanks, ISRO for putting one more feather in your much-decorated hat and also putting India on the frontline as a nation to which others will look forward for vital cues in the journey of the space sector”, he added.

Earlier, the minister said: “The ISRO is all set to make history when it launches the first-ever private rocket, setting a new milestone in the 75 years journey of independent India. This is also significant in increasing the presence of private players in the space sector or the country,”

Skyroot Aerospace

Former ISRO scientists Pawan Kumar Chandana and Naga Bharath Daka founded Skyroot Aerospace in January 2017.

In August 2020, Skyroot test-fired the Raman-I solid-fuel upper stage for the first time. This solid-fuel upper stage is a component of Vikram, and Skyroot was the first Indian private entity to test such a stage.

Skyroot, which builds small satellite launch vehicles (SSLVs), has raised $68 million in funding from investors so far.

The firm aims to make spaceflights affordable, reliable, and regular for all.

Skyroot is a Start-up India winner of “Space” in the category “Launch Vehicles” in 2020.