India has achieved a significant milestone in its efforts to establish a commercial space industry and compete on price by successfully launching its first independently developed rocket.
Vikram-S lifted off on last week from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota as part of a mission named Prarambh (the beginning).
“I am happy to announce the successful completion of Mission Prarambh, the beginning,” Pawan Goenka, who chairs the Indian government agency that coordinates private-sector space activities, said.
The 545kg rocket, developed by space start-up Skyroot, hit a peak altitude of 89.5km. According to the company, the rocket can reach Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, and carry a payload of 83 kg to an altitude of 100 km. For its initial launch, the Skyroot team had set a goal of 80km, which some organisations consider to be the outer limits of space. The Karman line – set by an international aeronautics body as defining the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and space – is at 100 km altitude.
The rocket was seen in video footage launching from the space centre and leaving a plume of smoke and fire in its wake. According to officials, it landed in the Bay of Bengal about five minutes after launch.
Skyroot, which was started by Pawan Chandana and Bharath Daka, has set a target of cutting development costs by up to 90 per cent versus existing platforms to launch small satellites.
It expects to achieve that cost saving by using a rocket architecture that can be assembled in less than 72 hours with composite materials. It plans launches capable of delivering satellites starting next year.