Skyroot: End of ISRO’s monopoly in space race? All you need to know about the startup behind first private rocket launch


The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Friday launched the Vikram-S from its spaceport in Sriharikota, about 115 km from Chennai.

The vehicle, named as a tribute to the father of India’s space programme, Vikram Sarabhai, marks the entry of the emergence of the private sector in the space race, ending the monopoly of ISRO.

Symbolising a new start, the mission has been named ‘Prarambh’ (the beginning). Vikram-S was developed by four-year-old startup Skyroot Aerospace. The space segment was thrown open to private players in 2020.

Currently, 80% polar satellite launch vehicles are manufactured locally under the ISRO or Defence Research Development Organisation’s manufacturing programmes.

Here is all you need to know about Skyroot and its rocket Vikram-S:

  1. Skyroot Aerospace is the largest funded private space startup in India. It was founded in June 2018 by former Isro scientists Pawan Kumar Chandana and Naga Bharath Daka
  2. Skyroot Aerospace aims to “open space for all”. It successfully raised $51 million through a Series-B financing round, in September this year. It had raised $11 million in Series-A capital raise in July last year
  3. Skyroot has successfully built and tested India’s first privately developed cryogenic, hypergolic-liquid, and solid fuel-based rocket engines using advanced composite and 3D-printing technologies
  4. It is backed by GIC of Singapore, Anil Kumar Chalamalasetty and Mahesh Kolli, founders of Greenko; entrepreneur Mukesh Bansal, founder of Myntra and; Laxmi and Aditya Mittal family office; and Solar Industries
  5. Skyroot Aerospace was the first startup to ink a memorandum of understanding with ISRO
  6. Skyroot with its strong India ecosystem connect, imbibing innovative and digital manufacturing processes and optimal material usage is bringing down launch costs by 50% compared to leading global players
  7. Vikram-S took about two years to develop and was built using advanced technologies such as carbon composite structures and 3D-printed components
  8. Vikram-S, which will be powered by India’s first carbon-fibre-built solid fuel engine, was initially slated for launch on November 15, but was finally given clearance for launch on November 18 by space regulator IN-SPACe
  9. Vikram-S was slated to soar to a height of 81 km and splash down in less than five minutes
  10. The company’s co-founder Chandana said that the Vikram-S rocket is a scaled-down version of the Vikram-1 rocket. The former is a single-stage rocket whereas the latter is a multi-stage vehicle.

“Almost all our systems flying in Vikram-S were designed in-house, except for few sensors which were imported,” Chandana said.

The company plans to have three rocket variants: Vikram I – payload or carrying capacity 480 kg to 500 km low inclination orbit (LIO); 290 kg to 500 km sun-synchronous and polar orbit (SSPO); Vikram II – 595 kg to 500 km LIO, 400 kg to 500 km SSPO and Vikram III – 815 kg to 500 km LIO, 560 kg to 500 km SSPO.

Chandana said Vikram-1 is expected to fly during the third quarter of the calendar year 2023.


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