Chennai Startup Agnikul Successfully Launches India’s Second Private Rocket

The Indian government had opened up India’s space sector for private players in 2017, and the results are already beginning to show.

Chennai based space startup Agnikul has successfully launched its Agnibaan rocket, becoming the second Indian private company to send a rocket to space. In November 2022, Bengaluru-based Skyroot had launched India’s first ever private rocket. Agnikul’s launch occurred after 4 aborted missions to launch the rocket over the last few months. The launch was nominal and met all mission parameters.

“Humbled to announce the successful completion of our first flight – Mission 01 of Agnibaan SOrTeD – from our own and India’s first & only private Launchpad within SDSC-SHAR at Sriharikota,” Agnikul said. “All the mission objectives of this controlled vertical ascent flight were met and performance was nominal. The vehicle was completely designed in-house and was powered by the world’s first single piece 3D printed engine and also happens to be India’s first flight with a semi cryo engine,” the startup said.

Agnibaan flew for 2 mimutes and reached a peak altitude of 700 km before splashing into the ocean. The launch vehicle can carry a payload of up to 300 kg, and will be used for satellite launches in the future.

Agnikul’s launch by hailed by PM Modi, who is also India’s Space Minister. “A remarkable feat which will make the entire nation proud!” he posted on X. “The successful launch of Agnibaan rocket powered by world’s first single-piece 3D printed semi-cryogenic engine is a momentous occasion for India’s space sector and a testament to the remarkable ingenuity of our Yuva Shakti. My best wishes to the Agnikul team for their future endeavours,” he added.

Agnikul is among a handful of global space companies that use 3D printed rocket engines. Also, the launch carried out from India’s first private rocket launchpad which had been built by the company in late 2022 in Sriharikota. The rocket was also India’s first rocket to use a semi cryo engine, which uses both gas and liquid fuel.

This is remarkable progress for Agnikul, which had been founded only in 2017 by Srinath Ravichandran and Moin SPM. Ravichandran had an engineering degree from College of Guindy and an MS in Aerospace Engineering from University of Illinois, and Moin had a degree in Aerospace Engineering from Anna University with an MBA in Aeronautics from University of Newcastle.

Agnikul was initially incubated at the National Center for Combustion R&D at IIT Madras. In 2018, the startup fired its first set of igniters and single injector element based thrusters. In 2019, the company raised funding, and signed agreements with potential customers. In 2020, the company raised its Series A, and also signed a partnership with ISRO. In 2022, Agnikul had successfully tested the 3D engine which was used in today’s launch, and also built India’s first private launchpad.

Agnikul now has managed to complete its first launch, becoming the second Indian startup after Skyroot to successfully launch a rocket. This is the kind of progress that the Indian government had envisioned when it had opened up the space sector for private players in 2017. Until then, activities around space and rockets had been limited to ISRO, but the government set up a body named IN-SPACe to nurture private players named who were looking to start their own space companies. “With the efforts of IN-SPACe, the private space ecosystem is growing in the right direction and also gets access to the state-of-art technologies to make and test world class products inside the country, thus directly contributing to the Make in India and Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiatives,” said Agnikul co-founder Moin SPM. And with two Indian private companies having launched rockets in quick succession, India’s space sector seems to be truly taking off.