AgniKul Cosmos sets up India’s first private launchpad at Sriharikota spaceport

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Chennai: A city-based spacetech startup Agnikul has unveiled the country’s first-ever launchpad to be designed and operated by a private firm in the sector at the iconic Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota off the Andhra Pradesh coast.

Completely designed by AgniKul engineers, the facility has been executed with support from the national space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and the single window nodal agency for promoting and regulating space-tech players, IN-SPACe. Home to the startup’s launchpad, and mission control centre, all critical systems connecting these two sections located 4 km, apart from each other to independently ensure 100 per cent operationality during the countdown phase.

The launchpad is specifically built keeping in mind the ability to support liquid stage-controlled launches, while also addressing the need for ISRO’s range operations team to monitor key flight safety parameters during a launch. It is equipped with the ability to share the necessary data and other critical information with ISRO Mission Control Centre.

Speaking at the inauguration, chairman ISRO & secretary of the Department of Space S Somanath quipped “The first exclusive launch pad for a private launch vehicle has come up at SDSC. Now, India can travel to space from one more space platform, thanks to Agnikul!”

Thanking ISRO and IN-SPACe for their support, co-founder & CEO of AgniKul, Srinath Ravichandran, gushed, “It is dream come true for all of us at Agnikul to launch our vehicles from a facility we have designed and built ourselves.”

Wholly endorsing Ravichandran’s view, company co-founder, Moin SPM, remarked, “The new reforms that have been brought in by the Dept. of Space truly accommodate everyone’s dream of going to space.”

The facility will get first utilised when AgniKul conducts the vertical launch of its Agnibaan rocket using its patented Agnilet cryogenic engine either by this year-end or 2023 beginning. The company describes Agnibaan as a highly customisable, two-stage launch vehicle capable of taking up to 100-kilo payloads up to 700 km in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO), with a plug-and-play configuration to precisely match the mission’s needs.

The Agnilet engine that will be powering the mission is also the world’s first single-piece 3D-printed engine. First tested in early 2021 it was subsequently revalidated at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram.

AgniKul’s maiden launch being a technology demonstrator will, however, be on a reduced scale.

Founded in 2017 by aerospace engineers Srinath Ravichandran and Moin SPM, and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras faculty member Prof. Sathyanarayan R Chakravarthy, AgniKul is the first Indian company to ink an agreement with ISRO in December 2020, allowing it access to the space agency’s expertise and facilities.

To date, Agnikul has raised a total funding of $35 million from Rocketship.vc, Mayfield India, pi Ventures, Speciale Invest, and a clutch of angel investors, including Anand Mahindra and Naval Ravikant.