An Indian company, Skyroot, has successfully launched the country's first privately built solid rocket stage. This is a significant step on their path to becoming the first private Indian company to build and operate private launch vehicles.
A first for India
Skyroot Aerospace, an Indian startup, has reached a major milestone in its development program with its first successful test firing of their Vikram-1's launch vehicle Kalam-5 engine. Serving as a demonstrator for the program, this is the first time the company has designed, built, and tested a solid rocket propulsion stage in its entirety.
Skyroot's website states that "Vikram, named after Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the father of Indian Space Program, is a series of launch vehicles especially crafted for the small satellite market. Built on a common architecture and covering a wide range of payloads, they offer the most affordable and on-demand ride to space."
This development builds on their earlier successful engine burn test of its upper-stage prototype earlier this year.
The rocket prototype has been built using a carbon composite structure in an entirely automated manufacturing process. This enables the rocket to be very lightweight for its size -- up to around five times versus the use of steel that is more usually used to house solid rocket propellants.
The company hopes to use the same process to build the production version of the Vikram-1. This should provide significant cost benefits during production, as well as, make the rocket more reliable in the long run.
The rocket has relatively few moving parts and a relatively uncomplicated fundamental design that should reduce the chance of failure during operation.
Vikram-1's third-stage will be four times the size of the recently tested demonstrator and Skyroot has also started the process of manufacturing four other test rocket motors.
This is the first of five Kalam series of solid rocket motors with a thrust ranging from 5kN to 1000kN Kalam-5 uses ultra-high-strength carbon composite case and composite propellant.
Each one will be tested throughout the course of 2021 as its construction is completed.
Skyroot hopes that 2021 will also be another big year for their program as they plan to test-launch their first Vikram-1 by December. This ambitious domestic space project is also being supported, in part, by the Indian Space Research Organization.
To date, Skyroot has managed to raise $4.3 million in funding and has said it is in the process of raising another $15 million which they hope to receive by the end of 2021. Not bad for a company founded only back in 2017 by former engineers and scientists from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), and various aerospace companies from around the world.
Skyroot is well on course to become the first private Indian company to build and operate private launch vehicles. With the help of Indian authorities, they also now have the regulatory framework now in place to allow that to happen since India opened up private launcher operations earlier this year.