After considerable anticipation and years of work, India’s space agency has successfully launched the Vikram-S, giving the country’s private space industry a boost.
The suborbital rocket was launched by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) at 11.30 a.m. local time on Friday from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on India’s east coast.
The Vikram-S is a single-stage, spin-stabilized solid propellant rocket with a mass of about 550 kg that was created by four-year-old startup Skyroot Aerospace. Three customer payloads are carried, one of which is from a customer outside of India. The 6-meter-long rocket’s core construction is made entirely of carbon fibre and was built in under two years.
The Hyderabad-based Skyroot’s debut demonstration mission is titled Prarambh, which translates to “the beginning” in Sanskrit. The start-up is creating a line of launch vehicles with Vikram Sarabhai, the man who started India’s space programme, as its namesake.
The Indian government approved reforms to the space industry in June 2020 and created the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe) to make it possible for private businesses to utilise ISRO’s infrastructure. Additionally, New Delhi established NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) as the commercial arm of the space agency to collaborate closely with startups and the private sector to support space developments in the South Asian nation.
“I’m pleased to say that Skyroot Aerospace’s first mission, Prarambh, was successfully completed. Exact as anticipated by Skyroot Aerospace, the rocket VKS [Vikram-S] launched at a LEA (launch elevation angle) of 80 degrees and an azimuth of 100 degrees, reaching an altitude of 89.5 kilometres and a range of 121.2 kilometres. After the successful launch, Pawan Goenka, chairwoman of IN-SPACe, Department of Space, stated that “as far as I can tell, all systems operated as intended and Skyroot Aerospace has proved capacity of numerous subsystems that will go into the orbital launch vehicle.
The privately-made solid rocket stage from India, developed by Skyroot, was successfully tested in fire in December 2020. Skyroot was founded in 2018 by former ISRO scientists Pawan Kumar Chandana and Naga Bharath Daka.
The business has a valuation of $165 million and has received a total of $68 million, including $51 million in a Series B round led by Singapore-based GIC in September.
The Indian Space Association (ISpA) provided data to TechCrunch indicating that Indian space entrepreneurs have raised over $245.35 million, of which $108.52 million was invested in 2022 alone. Along with private enterprises like Bharti Airtel and OneWeb as founding members, the organisation counts Skyroot as one of its members.
To boost private engagement and stimulate investment in the nation’s space sector, the government is now developing a new space policy.
A single sanction window and spectrum allotment for satellite-based communication services through the Department of Telecommunications are two issues that industry players have brought up, according to ISpA Director General Lt. Gen. AK Bhatt in a recent interview with TechCrunch.
The government has also been urged by the industry participants to make incentives for foreign direct investment, as well as policies relating to taxes, import levies, and domestic production of space equipment that have not yet been addressed.
According to Chandana of Skyroot, “We’re really happy to say that we scripted history today by successfully launching India’s first privately developed rocket Vikram-S.” As the name implies, “this Prarambh mission” marks the start of a new era in the Indian space ecosystem.