Indian launch vehicle company Agnikul Cosmos is targeting a March 2023 launch for its rocket “Agnibaan”, which will be India’s first rocket to be powered by a combination of kerosene and liquid oxygen. The maiden flight is planned to take place from India’s spaceport, Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota and will be a sub-orbital flight, meaning that the rocket will not venture into space. This rocket is capable of lifting payloads weighing up to 100 kg to orbits around 700 km above the Earth’s surface.
At the SpaceTech Summit held at IIT Madras, Agnikul’s CEO Srinath Ravichandran revealed the plans for the maiden launch and shared the details of the rocket. The rocket, which weighs 14 tonnes at launch, stands 18 meters tall, and is 1.3 meters in diameter, is designed to be compact and can easily fit into a shipping container or trailer.
The rocket consists of two stages, with the first stage comprising of a cluster of engines known as ‘Agnite’ and the second stage consisting of the ‘Agnilet’ engine. Both of these engines are semi-cryogenic, meaning they use a combination of fuels – refined kerosene (stored at room temperature) and super-cooled liquid oxygen. Agnikul claims that these engines, which are designed and developed in-house, are the first single-piece, 3-D printed engines in the world.
The first stage of the rocket is customizable and can be fitted with anywhere between four to seven engines, depending on the mission requirements. The rocket engines also utilize fuel pumps that are powered by batteries and electric motors. To ensure safe export and transportation, the rocket comprises of no explosives or pyrotechnics. Instead, pneumatic systems are used for jettisoning spent stages.
In November 2022, Agnikul inaugurated India’s first private rocket launch pad and mission control center, located within the ISRO spaceport at Sriharikota. The company is also working on a method to launch the rocket from a pedestal on the back of a truck. The test launch of Agnibaan will include all the avionics, telemetry, and guidance systems that are used in commercial launches of the rocket.