The Indian space tech startup, Skyroot Aerospace, is leaping ahead on its way to becoming the first private space launch vehicle maker in the country, making significant technical progress with a new, successful test of the Solid Propulsion technology. The company has successfully test-fired its first solid rocket propulsion stage demonstrator, called Kalam-5, at a private test facility owned by Solar Industries in Nagpur.
Kalam-5 uses the same propellant, materials, and interface as the motors that will be installed on Vikram-1, which is now a step closer to become India’s first-ever privately designed and developed rocket.
Skyroot Aerospace was founded two years ago by a team of engineers who previously worked at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), including CEO and co-founder Pawan Kumar Chandana. The startup has raised $4.3 million to date and is currently in the process of raising another $15 million funding next year.
The Kalam-5 is the first of five Kalam series of Solid rocket motors with a thrust ranging from 5kN to 1000kN that Skyroot plans to test. The remaining four motors are currency under the manufacturing process and are expected to be tested next year.
In terms of technical specifications, the Kalam-5 gives a peak sea-level thrust of 5.3kN, can handle the pressure of 66 atmospheres and temperatures of up to 30,000 degrees Celsius. It is only one-fourth the size of the solid motor in Vikram 1’s third stage.
It is also worth noting that the engine is made from an ultra-high-strength carbon composite case and composite propellant, which is five times lighter than steel, making it very durable and movable. Designing and manufacturing a carbon composite case is a complex process and also quite challenging. Through successful testing, there is an expectation that a much larger model will succeed in the coming time.
This test mainly demonstrates the technology capability of the Vikram 1 rocket. “The ‘Vikram-1’ rocket has three solid fuel-powered stages, each with a burn time ranging between 80 and 100 seconds. The full-scale solid fuel stage will be tested at the ISRO facility soon. The burn time will be 100 seconds,” Pawan Chandana told the media.
Skyroot Aerospace said that the first vehicle, Vikram-I, is under manufacturing and is expected to be launched in December 2021.