India to launch country's first privately developed rocket, Vikram S

Space sector in India is largely led by the government but private participation was opened in 2020 to enable the Indian space program to remain cost competitive

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India is all set to launch its first privately developed rocket into space, which many believe will open new avenues and herald a new era for start-ups in the country’s space sector.

Skyroot Aerospace, a space start-up in Hyderabad, will launch the Vikram S on November 18.

The rocket will carry three payloads — two Indian and one foreign ― on a sub-orbital mission, a trajectory that does not complete the Earth's orbit.

In rocket science jargon, a payload can differ depending on the rocket's mission, but in civilian space missions, it is normally a suite of different sensors that monitor factors such as temperature, humidity and radiation levels.

Vikram S will be launched from the Indian Space Research Organisation’s launchpad at Sriharikota, a barrier island in southern Andhra Pradesh, in an event overseen by the country's Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh.

The rocket will help validate the technology in Skyroot’s Vikram series of space launch vehicles, Skyroot co-founder Naga Bharath Daka said.

The Vikram series

The Skyroot Vikram series is named after Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the founder of India's space programme.

Skyroot Aerospace, which is developing three variants of the Vikram rocket, has named the maiden mission Prarambh, meaning “the beginning” in Hindi.

The three-stage rocket will have a sub-orbital flight to demonstrate the technological advances being made by the private sector in the country.

It will carry the three payloads to an altitude of 120 kilometres above Earth's surface to cross the Karman line at an altitude of 100km ― the point between the Earth's atmosphere and space.

The rocket was unveiled last week by S Somanath, the chairman of ISRO, the national space agency of India. It was scheduled to be launched on November 15 but was delayed due to weather conditions.

It has been given clearance for technical launch by In-Spacee, the regulator for private space industry investors and technology developers.

The space sector in India is largely led by the government.

Despite being among a handful of spacefaring nations in the world, India accounts for about 2 per cent of the space economy, according to government figures.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in 2020 opened the sector to allow private sector participation and enable the Indian space program to stay cost competitive in the global space market, and thus create more jobs in the space sector.

ISRO has signed agreements with more than 40 companies to assist them with space technology and build processes from the ground up.

Skyroot Aerospace, established in 2018, has more than 200 team members, and became India's first private space technology company after it signed an agreement with ISRO for sharing facilities and expertise last year.

"Vikram S is our technology demonstrator launch vehicle. We have a fleet of launch vehicles on series and this is specifically designed to demonstrate our technology for the other rockets, like Vikram 1," Sireesh Pallikonda, business development lead at Skyroot Aerospace, told The National.

“This will open access to space, so far it was just the government that was launching, but now it will be a new horizon for companies to have access to space. With participation of more companies and private participation we can generate more revenues and also there is a lot of talent and it will give opportunities to fulfil ambitions of those who want to work in rocketry,” he said.

Payload

The 545m rocket will carry three satellites from Space Kidz India, a Chennai-based aerospace start-up, N-Space Tech India and Armenia's Bazoomq.

At 25 seconds after lift-off and at an altitude of 17.9km, the rocket’s engine will burn out, ejecting its payload at an altitude of 81.5km.

“FunSAT is a 2.5kg mass with 80 payloads built by students from the US, Indonesia, Singapore and India. These are middle school students who are patiently and with absolute excitement waiting to see their satellite go up,” Srimathy Kesan, the founder and chief executive of Space Kidz India, told The National. “The entire process took eight to nine months to complete.”

Updated: November 18, 2022, 2:49 AM
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