Indian space startup Agnikul launches country’s second privately built rocket

By Thomson Reuters May 29, 2024 | 11:38 PM

BENGALURU (Reuters) – India’s Agnikul Cosmos launched its Agnibaan rocket for the first time on Thursday, powered by the only Indian rocket engine to use both gas and liquid fuel in the country’s second flight of a privately built rocket.

The Agnibaan’s first flight had been called off four times in the last two months because of technical issues. The most recent cancellation was Tuesday, when launch was aborted five seconds before lift-off.

The South Asian nation’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has not successfully flown a rocket with a so-called “semi-cryogenic” engine.

“A major milestone, as the first-ever controlled flight of a semi-cryogenic liquid engine realized through additive manufacturing,” ISRO said on social media platform X.

Agnibaan is a customisable, two-stage launch vehicle that can carry a payload of up to 300 kg (661 lb) into orbit of about 700 kilometres (435 miles).

The suborbital flight on Thursday was meant to test the new engine and 3D-printed parts; the company did not immediately say how long the test lasted or what altitude the rocket reached.

Pawan K Goenka, chairman of space regulator Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), also hailed the “historic moment”. The Indian Space Association (ISpA) said the launch would “bolster global confidence” in the country’s private space industry.

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been pushing for the privatisation and commercialisation of the country’s space sector in the last few years.

India’s first privately developed rocket, from the company Skyroot, flew in 2022.

Agnikul, whose name is derived from the Hindi and Sanskrit work for fire, was founded in 2017 and runs India’s first private launchpad and mission control centre. All other launchpads are operated by ISRO.

(Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee, writing by Sakshi Dayal. Editing by Gerry Doyle)