When the new age Skyroot Aerospace successfully tested ‘Dhawan-1’, it became the country’s first privately developed fully cryogenic rocket engine running on two high-performance rocket propellants — Liquid Natural gas (LNG) & Liquid Oxygen (LoX) last month. The indigenous engine was developed using 3D printing with a superalloy.
That has set the city based firm into a higher trajectory path with an ambitious plan to launch the first private space launch vehicle using cryogenic engine ‘Vikram-2’ into orbit in two years time. Before that, the two co-founders and ex-IITians Pawan Kumar C. (Kharagpur 2012 batch) and Naga Bharath D, (Madras, 2012 batch) plan to put its first launch vehicle 20 metre tall ‘Vikram 1’ vehicle based on solid propulsion engine into space. This was after successfully designing and developing the solid propulsion rocket engine, the first private firm in the country to do so.
“We are space enthusiasts, always wanting to become entrepreneurs and to capture the emerging opportunities in the space sector. World over the private sector is driving innovations at a low cost. There was no regulatory framework when we began three years ago, but we are on the verge of taking off now testing multiple engines. Very few countries have developed a cryogenic engine,” said Mr. Kumar. “It took us a year to conceptualise our work, we knew it required a lot of research, but we were pretty sure of our skill sets. We have been able to iron out the deficiencies with a rigorous review system,” said Mr. Bharath.
Incidentally, both were flatmates on getting recruited by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and worked on GSLV Mark III stage rocket before deciding to branch out on their own, together. “Obviously, our families supported us realising our passion for space technology research though we were barely 30. We have been fortunate to have financial backing from Mukesh Bansal (Myntra founder), also a space enthusiast and believed in our dream, we are now a 100 strong team,” they said.
Skyroot is working simultaneously on different stages of both solid propulsion and liquid propulsion engines, named after eminent scientists like ‘Kalam’ (Abdul Kalam) series for the former and ‘Dhawan’ (Satish Dhawan) while the launch vehicles themselves are named after Vikram Sarabhai. In December last year, the intrepid team successfully test fired the solid propulsion rocket engine.
The firm has already won a national award for start ups in space research and had an online interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Our design is done here, manufacturing across the country, test firing at Solar Industries site in Nagpur and tied up with ISRO for launch facilities. The future is in small satellites for observation and communication through small rockets and it is a US$ 370 billion business of which India has just 2% share,” they said.