T.N.-based Agnikul launches world’s first rocket with fully 3D-printed engine

The IIT-Madras incubated start-up says it is also India’s first semi-cryogenic engine-powered rocket launch; ISRO terms it a major milestone

Updated - May 30, 2024 09:33 pm IST

Published - May 30, 2024 09:29 am IST - CHENNAI:

Chennai headquartered space start-up Agnikul Cosmos Private Limited’s first rocket Agnibaan Sub Orbital Technology Demonstrator (SOrTeD) launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota on Thursday, May 30, 2024.

Chennai headquartered space start-up Agnikul Cosmos Private Limited’s first rocket Agnibaan Sub Orbital Technology Demonstrator (SOrTeD) launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota on Thursday, May 30, 2024. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Chennai-headquartered space start-up Agnikul Cosmos Private Limited launched the world’s first rocket — Agnibaan Sub Orbital Technology Demonstrator (SOrTeD) — with a single piece 3D-printed engine from Sriharikota at 7.15 a.m. on Thursday (May 30, 2024).

Agnibaan SOrTeD is India’s first launch from a private launchpad, called ‘Dhanush’, established by Agnikul. It is also India’s first semi-cryogenic engine-powered rocket launch and the world’s first single piece 3D-printed engine designed and built indigenously. According to details shared by the start-up, the key purpose of this mission, which is also Agnikul’s first flight, is to serve as a test flight, to demonstrate in-house and home-grown technologies, gather crucial flight data and ensure optimal functioning of systems for Agnikul’s orbital launch vehicle, the ‘Agnibaan’.

On Thursday morning at 8.12 a.m., the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) posted a message on X, formerly Twitter, saying: “Congratulations @AgnikulCosmos for the successful launch of the Agnibaan SoRTed-01 mission from their launch pad. A major milestone, as the first-ever controlled flight of a semi-cryogenic liquid engine realised through additive manufacturing.”

The IIT-Madras incubated start-up had originally planned the launch for April 7 but had to postpone it 129 seconds before the lift-off due to some technical glitches. On the same day it posted on X: “Had to call off today’s launch attempt of Agnibaan SOrTeD just a second into Automated Launch Sequence (ALS) initiation (at T-129 seconds) because of a communication issue between 2 of our onboard hardware. Although it is frustrating to see a HOLD this close to lift off, we are glad that our ALS did its job. We’ll get to the root cause and come back for launch after fixing the cause. Thank you for the support as always.” Since then the launch date was postponed several times citing technical issues.

‘Remarkable feat’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to X and called this a remarkable feat which will make the entire nation proud. “The successful launch of Agnibaan rocket powered by world’s first single-piece 3D-printed semi-cryogenic engine is a momentous occasion for India’s space sector and a testament to the remarkable ingenuity of our Yuva Shakti,” he added.

Srinath Ravichandran, Co-Founder and CEO, Agnikul Cosmos, said, “This is the culmination of 1000s of hours of reviews and hard work by the team.” Moin SPM, Co-Founder and COO, Agnikul Cosmos, thanked IN-SPACe and ISRO for their guidance and support and the start-up’s advisers, investors, vendors and customers.

Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), a single-window, independent, nodal agency that functions as an autonomous agency in the Department of Space (DOS), also took to X and said: “Heartiest Congratulations @AgnikulCosmos for the successful launch of the Agnibaan SoRTed-01 mission from their launch pad at SDSC. This is the first-ever controlled flight of a semi-cryogenic liquid engine realised through 3D manufacturing.”

Agnibaan SubOrbital Technological Demonstrator (SOrTeD), vehicle is seen at Agnikul’s Launchpad at Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota.

Agnibaan SubOrbital Technological Demonstrator (SOrTeD), vehicle is seen at Agnikul’s Launchpad at Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Commenting on the launch, S. Somanath, Chairman, ISRO, said, “It motivates ISRO to support the Space start-ups and non-governmental entities for innovation and Atmanirbharata to create a vibrant space ecosystem in the country.”

This achievement marks a significant milestone in Tamil Nadu’s march to a leading position in the space sector, said Sandeep Nanduri, Managing Director of the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO).

Founded in 2017 by Srinath Ravichandran, Moin SPM, and Satya Chakravarthy, Agnikul Cosmos became the first company in the country to sign an agreement with ISRO under the IN-SPACe initiative to have access to the space agency’s expertise and its facilities to build Agnibaan in December 2020. The Agnikul team consists of over 200 engineers and is associated with the National Centre for Combustion Research and Development (NCCRD) at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras.

V. Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras, said, “The sky is no more the limit for our start-ups. Very innovative, for the first time in the world, deep core technology was demonstrated today by Agnikul — it is a great inspiration for all young students to boldly take the entrepreneurship route and become employers.”

Lt. Gen. A.K. Bhatt (retd.), Director-General, Indian Space Association (IspA), said: “What Agnikul has achieved today is nothing short of a historical milestone, since India launched its maiden rocket in 1963 from Thumba launch station. Agnibaan SOrTeD has got many firsts in its strides with being India’s first launch from a private launchpad, the first semi-cryogenic engine-powered rocket launch and the world’s first single-piece 3D-printed engine designed and built indigenously.”

He said this significant launch, coupled with the recently introduced guidelines for the implementation of the Indian Space Policy 2023 by IN-SPACe and the new FDI regulations, would undoubtedly bolster global confidence in India’s private space industry and its growing capabilities.

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