Chennai headquartered space-tech start-up Agnikul, has set up India’s first-ever launchpad that will be operated by a private player, at Sriharikota. The facility was inaugurated by S. Somanath, chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Secretary, Department of Space, recently.
“The first exclusive launch pad for a private launch vehicle has come up at the Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC). Now India can travel to space from one more space platform. Thanks to Agnikul,” Mr. Somanath said.
The facility, which was designed by Agnikul and executed in support with ISRO and IN-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center) has two sections to it: the Agnikul launchpad (ALP) and the Agnikul mission control center (AMCC).
All critical systems connecting these two sections, which are 4 km away from each other, are redundant to ensure 100% operationality during countdown.
The launchpad is specifically built keeping in mind the necessity to support liquid stage controlled launches, while also addressing the need for ISRO’s range operations team to monitor key flight safety parameters during launches. Additionally, it has the ability to, as necessary, share data and other critical information with ISRO’s Mission Control Center.
Srinath Ravichandran, co-founder & CEO, Agnikul said, “The ability to launch from our own launchpad while still working with ISRO’s launch operations teams is a privilege that we have been granted by ISRO & IN-SPACe.” Moin SPM, co-founder, Agnikul said, “The new reforms that have been brought in by the Department of Space truly accommodate everyone’s dream of going to space.”
First launch to be technology demonstrator
Agnikul’s first launch, which will be a controlled and guided mission, a vertical launch, using its patented engine will happen from this launchpad. The mission will be a technology demonstrator that will mirror Agnikul’s orbital launch but at a reduced scale.
Agnibaan is Agnikul’s highly customizable, two-stage launch vehicle, capable of taking up to 100 kg payload to orbits around 700 km high (low Earth orbits) and enables plug-and-play configuration.
Agnilet is the world’s first single-piece 3-D printed engine fully designed and manufactured in India and was successfully test-fired in early 2021, making Agnikul the first company in the country to test its engines at ISRO. Agnibaan and Agnilet will be used in the Agnikul’s first launch.
Founded in 2017 by Srinath Ravichandran, Moin SPM and Professor S.R. Chakravarthy from IIT Madras, Agnikul is an IIT Madras incubated startup. It became the first Indian company to sign an agreement with ISRO in December 2020.
The agreement signed under the IN-SPACe initiative sanctioned Agnikul access to the Indian space agency’s expertise and facilities to build Agnibaan and its launchpads.
IN-SPACe was conceived in June 2020 following the Central government’s decision to open up the space sector and enable the participation of Indian private sector in the gamut of space activities. It acts as a single-window, independent, nodal agency which functions as an autonomous agency in Department of Space.