Indian Startup’s 1st 3D Printed Rocket Has Launchpad on ISRO Grounds | Technoscoob


For Agnikul Cosmos, a Chennai-based area tech startup incubated at IIT-Madras, 2022 was a yr filled with standout landmarks. 

In July, Agnikul launched India’s first-ever manufacturing unit able to manufacturing 3D-printed rockets referred to as Agnibaan that may carry as much as 100 kg of payload to low Earth orbits as much as 700 km. The car has the aptitude for a plug-and-play engine configuration that’s configurable to exactly match the mission’s wants.

In November, Agnikul introduced the inauguration of India’s first-ever launchpad designed and operated by a non-public participant. The ability, located at Sriharikota, was designed by Agnikul and executed in help of the Indian Area Analysis Organisation (ISRO) and the Indian Nationwide Area Promotion and Authorization Heart (IN-SPACe), a nodal company which features as an autonomous company within the Division of Area (DoS), Authorities of India. 

Earlier this week, The Higher India spoke to Srinath Ravichandran, co-founder of Agnikul Cosmos, to briefly perceive the story behind these landmark achievements.    

Inauguration of India’s first-ever launchpad designed and operated by a private player where they launch their 3D printed rockets.
Inauguration of India’s first-ever launchpad designed and operated by a non-public participant.

Constructing 3D-printed rockets

Agnikul Cosmos builds small launch automobiles to be used in industrial area missions. They design, manufacture, take a look at and launch orbital-class rockets for micro and nanosatellites.

None of that is potential with out determining the engine. Earlier than the rocket, they labored out the method of producing 3D-printed rocket engines just like the thrust chamber and different vital elements. At this time, they’ll print each first and second-stage engines, moreover 3D printing a number of engines on the identical. The engine makes use of liquid oxygen and aviation turbine gas. ISRO even efficiently performed a scorching take a look at of a rocket engine developed by Agnikul Cosmos.      

“We began making these rocket engine designs again in 2018. It took us some time to excellent it. Until the tip of 2019, we began realising these designs with totally different distributors within the nation. After we had made sufficient of those engines exterior, regardless that the design was not closing, we understood what it really meant to 3D print a rocket,” explains Srinath. 

“Following this, we began shopping for a few of the {hardware} and infrastructure required for not solely making these engines in-house however different elements as properly. In the midst of 2021, actual efforts in direction of in-house manufacturing began. It took us a couple of yr to arrange all the things. We inaugurated the manufacturing unit formally on 13 July. It took virtually a yr’s effort to get the ability so as, be sure all the things works and have a totally functioning provide chain,” he provides.  

Engine for the 3D printed rocket
Agnikul Cosmos unveils Made In India ‘Agnilet’ rocket engine at Dubai.

The rockets are simply exhausting to make. These are extremely complicated items of {hardware} to construct. 

“We started our journey by attempting to grasp why and realised that engines are a severe showstopper. They’re significantly complicated items of {hardware}. What may be achieved to simplify the method of creating them? That’s the place we got here throughout 3D printing as a brand new manufacturing expertise. We had seen folks try constructing aerospace elements with it,” he says.  

“We began pushing the boundaries of what it means to 3D print a rocket engine. Our dedicated staff took it to some extent the place we might 3D print a rocket engine in only one shot. Again in 2018 itself, we realised that our rocket engines needed to be 3D printed and that’s after I began doing designs with the staff on how a 3D printed engine would appear like,” provides Srinath. 

At Agnikul, they’re actually attempting to “simplify entry to area”. Their 3D-printed rocket referred to as the Agnibaan has the aptitude to launch from a number of launch ports. The actual downside out there at this time is rockets are nonetheless massive, regardless that satellites have turn into smaller. 

“We wished to construct a pleasant and small rocket that may rapidly take satellites to area. We’re doing that with fully in-house constructed expertise each designed and made in India, and we’re doing that with a staff of 100 folks or so. Now we have a testing facility, a rocket manufacturing unit and an assembling facility the place we put the car collectively,” claims Srinath. 

3D printed rocket comes with a special engine
‘Agnilet’ rocket engine

What makes their 3D-printed rockets particular?

Beginning out, they comprise a single-piece rocket engine, which is basically a single piece of {hardware}. There isn’t any becoming a member of, welding, or any of the processes achieved sometimes in a producing course of. The complete rocket engine is a single part.

“This gives an error-free means of engine making, very fast turnaround time, and it really weighs round 11 to 12 kg solely. It’s permitting us to try designs which might be extremely complicated to grasp in standard manufacturing, in addition to to get into severe effectivity benefits. In standard manufacturing, it’s simply not potential or possible to do sure issues. However these issues are actually really potential with 3D-printed rocket engines,” claims Srinath.

“With 3D printing expertise, we even have lowered human errors and any form of dealing with errors. In some sense, you’ve automated the method of creating rocket engines as a result of there may be zero human interference within the course of,” he provides.

The engine is about 4.5 metres or so in top. In the meantime, the whole rocket is about 20 metres in top. These rockets journey in low earth orbits (LEO) of roughly as much as 700 km above Earth — which is low in comparison with different orbits however nonetheless very far above Earth’s floor, they usually journey on the orbital velocity of 7-8 km per second, in response to Srinath.  

“Though we can not disclose the particular value of constructing one such 3D-printed rocket, ours is among the many least expensive on the planet. It’s six to seven instances cheaper than constructing a conventionally constructed rocket. It comes from tapping into the design benefits provided by applied sciences like 3D printing. See, constructing 3D-printed rockets permits you to lower out a variety of slack. We are able to take out supplies you don’t need and also you don’t need to stay with inefficiencies in efficiency. These issues are literally why 3D-printed rockets are cheaper,” explains Srinath. 

Given the robust atmosphere of area, the fabric employed to construct the 3D-printed rocket is known as Inconel. These alloys are oxidation-corrosion-resistant supplies properly fitted to service in excessive environments subjected to strain and warmth, which outline area journey.  

How lengthy does it take to 3D print one rocket? Srinath claims that the Agnikul manufacturing unit can at the moment 3D print two rockets per week. They’ve clients who’re ready for the primary few launches to occur. 

“We’re nonetheless at a pre-revenue stage at this level. There’s a queue in the case of the fulfilment of orders. We try to clear the pipeline and kind issues out as rapidly as potential. Our clients have positioned orders and we’re ready to ship on these,” he provides.

Going additional, he additionally believes 3D printing is the way forward for rocket manufacturing. If you wish to interact in constructing one thing extraordinarily complicated in a really repeatable method for just a few hundred items a yr, 3D printing is the most suitable choice on the planet at this time. 

“That’s what the rocket business calls for as a result of it’s not like manufacturing thousands and thousands of smartphones. You’re making possibly about 50 to 100 launch automobiles/rockets a yr. That’s a pleasant candy spot for us and that’s precisely why 3D printing works so properly for rocket making,” argues Srinath.

3D printed rocket
A staff member engaged on 3D printing machine.

First non-public firm in India to have constructed its personal launchpad

The ability designed by Agnikul and executed with help from ISRO and IN-SPACe has two sections to it — the Agnikul launchpad (ALP) and the Agnikul mission management centre (AMCC). All vital techniques connecting these two sections — that are 4 km away from one another — are redundant “to make sure 100% operationality through the countdown,” says Srinath.

The launchpad is particularly constructed maintaining in thoughts the flexibility to help liquid stage managed launches, whereas additionally addressing the necessity for ISRO’s vary operations staff to observe key flight security parameters throughout launches. Moreover, it has the flexibility to, as mandatory, share information and different vital info with ISRO’s Mission Management Heart. 

“We had been the primary within the nation to really develop a launchpad privately with ISRO help. The launchpad is situated inside ISRO’s premises. They’ve been very supportive and made our lives simpler. ISRO gave us institutional help, however no monetary help. We needed to ask them for permission to construct our facility inside their premises. Our goal is now delivering on buyer expectations now we have for this launchpad,” says Srinath. 

Addressing the necessity for ISRO’s vary operations staff to observe key flight security parameters throughout launches, Srinath explains, “While you’re launching from a selected nation, the area company or launchpad operator has the duty to make sure flight security throughout raise off, earlier than lift-off, and so forth. Which means that your techniques need to be suitable with the techniques of the launchpad operator. That interfacing is vital for us.”

“As an entity, it’s a must to make it possible for you’ll be able to speak to ISRO’s techniques. It was vital for us to remember as a result of any launch is definitely a mixture of the launchpad operator and the launch car operator to get the mission achieved. ISRO was tremendous useful, nevertheless it took the trouble to make it possible for our techniques might talk with their techniques,” he provides. 

Essential studying on this course of was realising that launch car growth is tough, however launchpad growth is equally exhausting. “On the launch car facet, you search for accuracy and reliability. On the launchpad facet, you search for different issues. It’s not about one launch, however lots of. Right here the rigour and focus are on sturdiness, longevity, repeatability and so forth,” he says. 

Why is India’s first privately operated launchpad a landmark second? Srinath and his co-founder Moin SPM consider that this can be a validation of the coverage adjustments arising within the nation. 

“Past expertise, it’s additionally in regards to the system and the federal government permitting issues like these to occur. You’ll be able to’t construct a launchpad in India with out having the federal government’s help and a system to allow this. After all, constructing this expertise is difficult, however past this, it’s additionally about authorities coverage supporting such endeavours,” says Srinath. 

Mission control centre where they monitor their 3D printed rockets
Agnikul mission management centre

Availing of Agnikul’s providers  

Agnikul Cosmos was the primary area tech startup to signal an settlement with ISRO beneath the INSpace initiative. “We’re offering transportation providers to area for commodities. Consider it like an Amazon truck or Flipkart truck from earth to area. We’re doing that in such a fashion that the wait time between whenever you place the order to really take somebody or one thing to area is lower than two weeks,” explains Moin SPM, co-founder.

“Consider any commodity, satellite tv for pc, or anybody who needs to go to area. We’re a car that permits this course of. A rocket is a launch car which helps within the transportation of individuals and merchandise from earth to area. Whoever needs to take a experience to area is our buyer. These embrace entities engaged in distant sensing, earth imaging and others engaged in taking pictures of the earth’s floor, environment or atmospheric clouds, and so forth.,” says Srinath.

Co-founders
Agnikul Cosmos co-founders Moin SPM and Srinath Ravichandran.

“The opposite massive phase of consumers are entities placing up satellites in area for communication functions. Apart from these, there are additionally segments the place folks really go to check industrial merchandise that need to function in area.  Now, a variety of new functions have additionally come up. Persons are attempting to do manufacturing in area,” he provides.  

Whereas Srinath can not get into particular buyer names, he notes that you’d come throughout them by googling “small satellite tv for pc makers for earth imaging” or “small satellite tv for pc makers for communication”. “If you happen to Google the names within the prime 10, we’re talking to all of them,” he says. 

Constructing this expertise and the infrastructure round it requires vital capital funding. Up to now, they’ve raised a number of rounds of funding from institutional buyers amounting to about $30 million to $35 million. “We’ve been very lucky and grateful to have people who find themselves believers in what’s potential in area expertise. It’s vital to faucet into that and now really get issues achieved,” says Moin. 

(Edited by Divya Sethu)

(Pictures courtesy Agnikul Cosmos)





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