Bengaluru: India’s first private rocket was launched Friday at 11.30 am by Skyroot Aerospace, with support from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), from the Sriharikota launch pad. The historic mission, titled Prarambh (the beginning), saw the rocket Vikram-S (VKS) perform a suborbital flight with three customer payloads, and tested and validated the rocket’s technology.
The rocket flew to an altitude of 81.5 km, before splashing down in the Bay of Bengal. The success of the flight, made Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace the very first private company in India to launch a rocket.
The launch was authorised and facilitated by IN-SPACe, ISRO’s new regulatory authority tasked with facilitating ISRO resource support for private startups in the country.
The single-stage sub-orbital rocket used the company’s Kalam 80 propulsion system, weighing 545 kg at launch. It carried three payloads weighing a total of 80kg, from customers Space Kidz India, N-Space Tech India, and Bazoomq Armenia, according to the limited mission profile released by Skyroot on Twitter before the launch.
Mission set. Happy to announce the authorization received from IN-SPACe yesterday for 18 November ’22, 11:30 AM, after final checks on readiness and weather. Here’s our #Prarambh mission brochure for you. Watch this space for the launch live link.#OpeningSpaceForAll pic.twitter.com/IKAYeYKAYp
— Skyroot Aerospace (@SkyrootA) November 17, 2022
None of the payloads were ejected from the rocket’s nose cone, but were instead exposed after the payload fairing separated and remained attached to the vehicle as it splashed into the Bay of Bengal.
Union minister of state science and technology and earth sciences, Jitendra Singh, said in a statement Wednesday that the launch helps create a level playing field for cost-efficient satellite launch services by disrupting entry barriers. He added that with the integration of research and development, academia, and industry, a space revolution is on the horizon.
CEO and co-founder Pawan Kumar Chandana had earlier told ThePrint that he was feeling “elated and yet nervous”. “It took more than four years to get here with the phenomenal team’s work at Skyroot,” he had said.
The launch was available for viewing via livestream on the company’s official YouTube channel.
Payloads from India, Armenia
The Vikram-S engines burned out at 24.77 seconds from launch, and the rocket reached its apogee, or maximum altitude, 139 seconds into the flight.
The 6m-tall vehicle crashed into the ocean 290 seconds (about five minutes) after launch, along with its payloads.
The 2.5 kg Space Kidz India payload was a satellite built by middle school students from India, Indonesia, Singapore, Seychelles, and the US, CEO and founder Srimathy Kesan told ThePrint. It contained a a microcontroller and ten sensors designed on eighty 4 cm x 4 cm printed circuit boards (PCB boards). The sensors were for measuring temperature, humidity, pressure, volatile organic compounds and gases, light and Hall effect. There are also infrared sensors, gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer.
“As part of our vision to make space as accessible and economical and provide hands-on experience for children we have named the satellite FunSat,” Kesan added.
The other Indian payload was called LakshyaSat-2 and was a 200g, 1U (unit) cubesat built by Tenali-based startup N-space Tech, with sensors.
“The purpose of the mission is to test if the payload can withstand the harsh space environment,” said founder and director Divya Kurapati. “The next version will fly to low earth orbit with Skyroot in the future.”
The third payload was an international satellite from the education non-profit Bazoomq Space Research Lab in Yerevan, Armenia.
Skyroot Aerospace was set up in 2018, and work on developing the Vikram-S began in 2020.
The rocket was powered by solid fuel and uses all-composite materials. It also used 3D-printed solid thrusters for spin stability.
The mission demonstrated and tested avionics systems on-board and for future flights, like telemetry, tracking, inertial measurement, GPS, an on-board camera, data acquisition, and power systems.
Next for the company is the launch of its Vikram-1 commercial vehicle with three solid stages and one liquid stage (solid and liquid propellants) towards the end of 2023.
(This is an updated version of the copy.)
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)