ISRO partners with Skyroot Aerospace to boost private rocket development

ISRO partners with Skyroot Aerospace to boost private rocket development
Photo Credit: Reuters
3 Feb, 2021

In a bid to push privatization in the space sector, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Department of Space has signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with spacetech startup Skyroot Aerospace.

As per the contract, signed on February 2, the Indian space agency will share its facilities and offer technical expertise to the Hyderabad-based startup, a statement said on Tuesday. 

The collaboration will provide the startup, which was founded in 2018 by former ISRO scientists Pawan Kumar Chandana and Naga Bharath Daka, resources to develop, test and launch private satellite launch vehicles, the statement said.

The specifics of the agreement signed between senior executives from the two organisations remain under wraps, but the statement from ISRO did note that K Sivan, chairman of the agency, has offered Skyroot support to test and qualify its rockets for launch. 

“This is the beginning of a historic journey together. Our hardware will soon be rolled out to @isro facilities for testing,” Skyroot said in a tweet, following the announcement. “We thank Dr Sivan for spending quality time with us and Dir. VSSC (Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre) for his presence during the signing event with Sci. Secy.”  

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Skyroot Aerospace plans to develop three rockets to carry different types of satellites into space. While the Vikram I rocket will launch small satellites, Vikram II and III will be used for heavier payloads and higher altitudes and debut at a later stage.

The startup, which has reportedly raised $4.3 million from Mukesh Bansal, Solar Industries, Vedanshu Investments and others, has been working on the first test-flight of Vikram I, as per a TechCrunch report. 

Late in December 2020, it test-fired a solid rocket propulsion stage built out of lighter carbon composite structure, becoming the first private sector company in India to achieve the feat. This, combined with the test of a large third-stage engine and other rocket motors at ISRO facilities, will take the company closer to the first flight, which is expected to happen by December 2021.

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