Earlier today, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) unveiled the first privately designed and operated rocket launchpad and mission control centre in India. The facility, unveiled by S Somanath, chairman, Isro and secretary, Department of Space (DoS), is designed and will be fully operated by homegrown space startup, Agnikul Cosmos, Isro confirmed in a statement.
The launchpad and mission control centre, located in the premises of Isro’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, is expected to host its first rocket launch in the coming weeks, by Agnikul itself.
“The first exclusive launch pad for a private launch vehicle has come up at Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC). Now India can travel to space from one more space platform. Thanks to Agnikul,” Somnath said. Srinath Ravichandran, chief executive of Agnikul Cosmos, told Mint that while the launch facility will be currently used by Agnikul only, the company will be “open to other companies using the launchpad in future.”
A senior industry official with knowledge of the matter said that any private space firm would be allowed to set-up their launch facilities in Isro premises — by making requisite payments towards the use of the latter.
The use of Isro facilities is presently being enabled by the central government’s nodal space organization, Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (In-Space). Once the final version of the national space policy is unveiled, a transfer of technology clause under this policy will enable private firms to access or share Isro infrastructure.
Agnikul Cosmos is expected to launch its first rocket launch, called Agnibaan. In a statement, the company confirmed that the first launch will include a smaller version of the rocket, which will carry a payload of up to 100kg to a low-earth orbit of up to 700km. Ravichandran said that the company aims to carry out the launch by the end of this year.
The payload aboard a rocket is typically satellites, which are deployed in orbits as required by companies.
India’s first private rocket launch took place on November 18, when private space firm Skyroot Aerospace launched its suborbital rocket from Isro’s SDSC facility. However, Skyroot’s Vikram-S rocket did not enter earth’s orbit, and also did not carry an actual payload in its demonstrator launch. Pawan Kumar Chandana, chief executive of Skyroot, told Mint on November 21 that the firm will make its first orbital launch within the next one year — in which it would also carry actual satellite payload to a low-earth orbit.