INDIA’S FIRST PRIVATE SPACE LAUNCHPAD

  • Agnikul, the Chennai-headquartered space tech start-up, has established India’s first-ever launchpad for a private launch vehicle at Sriharikota. It was inaugurated recently by S. Somanath, Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Secretary of the Department of Space.
  • “The first exclusive launchpad for a private launch vehicle has come up at the Satish Dhawan Space Center. Now, India can travel to space from one more platform, thanks to Agnikul,” Mr. Somanath said.
  • The facility, which was designed by Agnikul and executed with the support of ISRO and Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe), has two sections: the Agnikul launchpad and the Agnikul mission control centre. All critical systems connecting these two sections, which are 4 km apart, are enough to ensure 100% operationality during countdown.
  • The launchpad has been built with the need to support liquid stage-controlled launches in mind, even while addressing the need for ISRO’s range operations team to monitor key flight safety parameters. It has the ability to share data and other critical information with ISRO’s Mission Control Center.
  • Agnikul co-founder and CEO Srinath Ravichandran said, “The ability to launch from our own launchpad, while still working with ISRO’s launch operations teams, is a privilege that we have been granted by ISRO and IN-SPACe.” Agnikul co-founder Moin SPM said, “The new reforms that have been brought in by the Department of Space truly accommodate everyone’s dream of going to space.”

Technology demonstrator

  • Agnikul’s first launch will happen from this launchpad. It will be a controlled and guided mission, a vertical launch with its patented engine. The mission will be a technology demonstrator that will mirror Agnikul’s orbital launch, but on a reduced scale.
  • Agnibaan is Agnikul’s highly customizable, two-stage launch vehicle, capable of carrying up to 100 kg in payload to orbits 700 km high. Agnilet is the world’s first single-piece 3-D- printed engine, fully designed and manufactured in India. Its successful test-firing in early 2021 made Agnikul the first company in the country to test its engines at ISRO. Agnibaan and Agnilet will be used in the Agnikul’s first launch.
  • Founded in 2017 by Srinath Ravichandran, Moin SPM and Professor S.R. Chakravarthy from IIT Madras, Agnikul is an IIT Madras-incubated start-up. It became the first Indian company to sign an agreement with ISRO in December 2020. The agreement, signed under the IN-SPACe initiative, sanctioned Agnikul access to ISRO’s expertise and facilities to build Agnibaan and launchpads.
  • IN-SPACe was conceived in June 2020 after the Centre decided to open up the space sector and allow the private sector to take part in space activities. It acts as a single-window, independent, nodal agency in the Department of Space.

SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB

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