India on Friday successfully placed three satellites into an orbit on a rocket completely developed by a four year- old startup, marking the entry of the private sector into the country’s space activities, currently dominated by the state-run behemoth ISRO.
Skyroot Aerospace-designed Vikram-S, named in a befitting tribute to the father of the country’s space programme Vikram Sarabhai, tasted success in its maiden mission. Skyroot Aerospace become the first privately held company in India after the space sector was opened for the private players by the Centre in 2020.
”I am happy to announce the successful completion of Mission Prarambh, The Beginning, by Skyroot aerospace,” a smiling Pawan Goenka, Chairman of the country’s space regulator, Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (INSPACe), said from ISRO’s Mission Control Center here.
The rocket achieved an altitude of 89.5 km and a range of 121.2 km, ”exactly what was planned by Skyroot Aerospace,” he said. It ”worked as planned” and Skyroot Aerospace has demonstrated various capability of sub-systems that will go into the orbital launch vehicle, he added.
The vehicle integrated into the launcher soared after lifting off at the prefixed 11.30 am from the sounding rocket complex at the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), here, about 115 km from Chennai.
The Mission unveiled by ISRO Chairman S Somanath has three payloads with two belonging to domestic customers and one from a foreign client.
The 6-metre tall launch vehicle is one of the world’s first few all-composite rockets that has 3-D printed solid thrusters for spin stability of the launch vehicle.
”This is a new beginning for the Indian private sector entering aerospace and a historic moment for all of us,” Goenka said.
The three payloads riding piggyback on the rocket are from Chennai-based start-up SpaceKidz, Andhra Pradesh-based N-SpaceTech and Armenian BazoomQ Space Research Lab.
Vikram-S launched the payloads in about 500 km low inclination orbit.
Pawan Chandana, Skyroot Aerospace co-founder said all the required mission objectives were completed.
”This Prarambh mission as the name signifies is the beginning of a new era in the Indian space ecosystem. Team Skyroot dedicates this successful mission to Dr Vikram Sarabhai, who boldly started the Indian space programme in the 1960s, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for unlocking the space sector to private players,” Chandana, also the Mission Director for Friday’s launch, said.
”This Prarambh mission symbolises not only India’s first private rocket launch, it also symbolises the potential of new India,” he added.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh, who witnessed the launch today accompanied, congratulated the nation and said it it is indeed a new beginning and a new dawn. ”Shall I say very appropriately new Prarambh in the journey of India’s space programme and many thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has made this possible by opening space sector to private participation,” Singh, who holds the Department of Space portfolio among others, said.
Earlier, in a departure from the routine, Friday’s mission was launched from the complex where sounding rockets were used by ISRO.
SDSC has two launch complexes, each capable of providing complete support for vehicle assembly, check out and launch operations for any kind of missions — Low Earth Orbit, Geosynchronous transfer orbit. PSLVs and GSLVs are launched from here.
Friday’s mission is considered to be a significant milestone for Skyroot Aerospace as it would help test and validate majority of the technologies in the Vikram series of orbital class space launch vehicles, including many sub-systems and technologies that would be tested before lift-off and post lift off phases of the launch.
‘Fun-Sat’, a 2.5 kg payload belonging to Chennai-based aerospace startup Spacekidz, has been developed by students from India, the United States, Singapore and Indonesia.
The 545 kg Vikram launch vehicle consists of the Vikram II and Vikram III series. The technology architecture of the launch vehicle offers unique capabilities like multi-orbit insertion and interplanetary missions, while providing customised, dedicated and ride share options covering a wide spectrum of small satellite customer needs, Skyroot Aerospace said.
The company added the rockets can be assembled and launched within 24 hours from any launch site.