Mission Prarambh will carry three customer payloads on Skyroot’s indigenously made launch vehicle
It will test and validate the majority of the technologies in the Vikram series of space launch vehicle
The rocket is scheduled to take off from ISRO’s Sriharikota launch pad between November 12 and 16
Hyderabad-based spacetech startup Skyroot Aerospace is all set to launch its rocket, Vikram-S, thereby marking entry into the private rocket launch segment. Since this is the first time a private rocket launch is taking place in the country, the mission is named Prarambh.
The rocket is scheduled to take off from the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Sriharikota launch pad between November 12 and 16, matching the weather conditions with Skyroot cofounder and CEO Pawan Kumar Chandana as the mission director.
Vikram-S, named as a tribute to ISRO founder and renowned scientist Vikram Sarabhai, received its technical launch clearance from the space regulator IN-Space and comes shortly after the spacetech startup raised $51 Mn in funding.
Mission Prarambh will carry three customer payloads on Skyroot’s indigenously made launch vehicle and help test and validate the majority of the technologies in the Vikram series of space launch vehicles.
With this mission, Skyroot Aerospace is set to become the first private space company in India to launch a rocket into space. The segment was opened for private companies in 2020 and has since invited participation from several spacetech companies including Bellatrix Aerospace, Agnikul, Dhruva, Astrogate and more.
What Makes ‘Vikram-S’
Skyroot Aerospace was launched by former ISRO scientists Chandana and Naga Bharath Daka and its core product was a liquid propulsion engine and a solid rocket. The Vikram series has three rockets in development to launch small satellites that would be useful to support communication services such as broadband internet, GPS, IoT from space and earth imaging.
According to the startup, the Vikram series (I, II, III) of full solid state rockets is built on upgradeable architecture with carbon composite and 3D-printed motors and can be assembled and launched in less than 72 hours. The rockets can carry satellites of up to 815 kgs to the low Earth orbit and the sun synchronous polar orbits (SSPOs).
Vikram-I is the first of the three launch vehicles that includes three solid fuel stages, plus a liquid-fueled kick stage. It will be able to send small satellites (up to 480 kgs) to low-inclination orbits and the other two, Vikram-II and Vikram-III, will be able to carry heavier payloads with multiple orbital insertions.
The project is supported by the ISRO – allowing Skyroot access to ISRO’s testing and launch sites.
The startup has not disclosed payload and launch details, but Skyroot had, in May 2022, successfully tested the Vikram-I launch vehicle. The startup completed a full-duration test-firing of the Vikram-I rocket three stages and the third stage had a burn time of 108 seconds and a peak vacuum thrust of 100 kN (or ~10Tons).
According to the startup, the solid fuel rocket is filled with a solid cake made up of fuel and oxidant and besides the fuel capacity, the pre-lift-off and post-lift-off stages will be tested during Mission Prarambh.
When successful, the startup will shift its focus onto the Vikram-I orbital vehicle.
According to a previous statement from Skyroot’s cofounder Daka, the startup will be looking to build a presence in the US, targeting weekly rocket launches at a later stage.
The Impact On Spacetech Segment
Skyroot plans to make space flight as reliable, responsive and economical as airplane flight and gained prominence when the Indian government opened the spacetech sector to private players.
The Centre also launched the Indian Space Association (ISpa) last year for collaboration between private and public players in the spacetech sector. Skyroot competes with nearly 120 startups in the spacetech sector such as Bellatrix, Dhruva Space, Team Indus, Agnikul, Astrogate, Kawa Space and others.
As per an Inc42 analysis, the Indian commercial spacetech market will have an addressable market opportunity of more than $77 Bn by 2030. Nearly 100 of these spacetech startups work within the aerospace segment, with IN-SPACe as the regulatory herald.
IN-SPACe is responsible for the policy changes and acts as a nodal agency to authorise and regulate private innovation in spacetech. It has been tasked with examining the extent to which private players can contribute to the space sector.
Some of its functions include establishing ground stations, building satellite constellations and specialised sensors and devices and providing applications and services for spacetech operations.
While the space has been open to private players for nearly two years now, only a handful of startups have successfully come out with PMFs (product-market fits).
The launch would open opportunities for the private sector and startups, while ISRO will be able to focus on science, R&D, interplanetary exploration and strategic launches.
The opening of the private sector will also drive down the cost-per-launch as innovations will take place at scale, giving India a much-needed fillip into the $400 Bn global spacetech market.