Well, launching a satellite can prove to be quite literally a rocket science, that clearly means it is also expensive. While the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has become the most asked pickup to disclose satellites from across the globe at adjustable rates, launching a small satellite still continues to be a challenge.
For a reason, small satellites are often the end-choice for a launch vehicle as launching their larger counterparts is more beneficial because the more the weight, the higher the cost. Hence, a minor satellite may have to sit tight for a minimum of 24 months to get hands on a ride that would put it into a low-earth orbit. Agnikul is growing and enhancing small-scale launch vehicles for such satellites and aspires to endeavor it at the super competitive rate of $15,000 per kilogram of payload.
Whereof, it needs to stand out its promise to launch a small satellite in a period two weeks when a customer signs up. Further, if everything steps as expected, Agnikul is probably to launch its first vehicle in 2021. Apart from coming up with dedicated launch vehicles for small satellites, Agnikul’s USP is its plug-and-play concept that includes its launch vehicles to be way less complicated as compared to huge launch vehicles such as PSLV and many others.
Furthermore, the launch vehicle’s propulsion system is completely 3D printed and can be finished in not more than 36 hours. Srinath says that the 3D printing for their prototypes was functioned using an existing 3D printer instead of outsourcing the job to a neoteric stepping customized printer. The aim of the startup is to develop launch vehicles cost-effective, compact, and efficient.
For the launch vehicle’s propulsion system, Agnikul Cosmos also took up liquid oxygen and kerosene rather than cryogenic propulsion, that uses a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen. Another focus for the want to avoid cryogenic propulsion was because small launch vehicles do not need a high magnitude of power and also taking care of them is a complicated and unmanageable task as oxygen and hydrogen are highly reactive and dangerous.
SpaceX, that is led by Elon Musk, is a competition for Agnikul, also like Blue Origin, led by Jeff Bezos, and ARCA Space, to address some. Srinath and his team, yet, remain fearless seeing such competitions in flow. After all, this is really unusual to see that an electrical-engineer turned finance-professional further mentions to be an aeronautical engineer to tackle space, the final frontier. With the enhancement of right credentials, he just needed an academic partner. In 2015, Srinath got the opportunity to start visiting universities across India in order to explore partnerships.
Two years after that, on a visit to IIT Madras, he was able to meet Prof Satyanath Chakravorthy, a propulsion expert and the Head of the National Centre for Combustion Research and Development (NCCRD), who understood and shouldered his concept. He further helped Srinath and his team for finishing research and development work for their launch vehicles and its propulsion system at NCCRD. Agnikul has also been part of the Airbus BizLabs accelerator programme, and is expected to achieve success. Till then, the 35 member team remains to function on formulating small launch vehicles for small satellites, marking it a benefit for customers in the field of earth observatories and telecommunication companies.