Naga Bharath Daka (left) and Pawan Kumar Chandana, co-founders, Skyroot Aerospace
Image: Chennoju Kranthi for Forbes India
Pawan Kumar Chandana and Naga Bharath Daka made a bit of Indian spacefaring history with the launch of Vikram-S, the first privately built space rocket from the country, in November.
The two former Isro engineers started Skyroot Aerospace in 2018, anticipating that the market for low-Earth orbit satellites will explode, requiring a large number of launches, worldwide.
Vikram-S was named after Vikram Sarabhai, widely seen as the father of India’s space efforts and its motor Kalam-80 honours another doyen of India’s rockets technologies, and former president, the late APJ Abul Kalam.
On November 18, the 6-metre-tall all-composite rocket, weighing 545 kg, reached an altitude of 89.5 km, crossing five times the speed of sound before it splashed back into the oceans in the Bay of Bengal after a few minutes. It’s capable of taking a payload of 83 kg to 100 km above the Earth.Also read: StepChange: Helping entreprises go net-zero
Future Vikram series rockets will be able to carry heavier loads and go farther. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted the successful launch was a “historic moment” for private space industry in India.
From a commercial standpoint too, Vikram-S was important because it tested and validated most of the technologies, such as the flight avionics, that will go into the upcoming Vikram series of rockets, starting with the Vikram-1.
“Within the next two years, we want to hit a cadence of one launch every month at least,” Chandana says. “After that, we want to ramp up production to reach one launch every week,” depending on the demand in the market. “One launch a day is aspirational, but it’s something we believe is possible,” he says.
(This story appears in the 24 February, 2023 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)