Agnikul Cosmos, an aerospace startup based in Chennai, is set to conduct a test flight of the world's first single-piece 3D-printed engine for their launch vehicle, Agnibaan, by the end of 2023. This test flight will serve as a technological demonstrator for Agnikul's planned orbital launch, which is expected to be the first commercial launch in 2024.
The Agnibaan launch vehicle is a highly customizable, single-stage rocket capable of carrying up to 300 kg of payload to orbits around 700 km above the ground, specifically low Earth orbits. It follows a plug-and-play configuration, adapting to the size of the satellite being launched.
One of the key distinctions between Agnibaan and other rockets, such as the Vikram S launched by Skyroot Aerospace, is that Agnibaan lifts off vertically and follows a predetermined trajectory, executing precisely orchestrated maneuvers during flight. This sets it apart from sounding rockets launched from guide rails.
Agnikul's rocket uses liquid propellants, which are reusable and considered safer compared to solid propellants. The company offers customizable sizes of launch vehicles, allowing them to configure the vehicle for a specific payload or satellite size.
The Agnilet engine, developed by Agnikul, is the world's first single-piece 3D-printed engine. It was designed and manufactured entirely in India and successfully test-fired in early 2021. This achievement marked a significant milestone for 3D printing technology in India, which has traditionally been reserved for medical implants.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched initiatives to privatise and attract foreign investment into the space sector, with the goal of increasing India's share in the global launch market. The government aims to elevate India's share from the current 2% to $40 billion by 2040.
Agnikul Cosmos operates India's first private launchpad and mission control center, located at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. The integration process of the launch vehicle with the company's private launchpad was completed on August 15, 2023 .
If the test flight of Agnikul's 3D-printed engine is successful, the startup will become India's second private company to develop a small satellite launch vehicle, following Skyroot Aerospace .
Agnikul Cosmos has received additional funding of $26.7 million ahead of its inaugural rocket launch. The funding will be used to prepare for commercial launches and establish a launch platform with pricing independent of payload mass. The company aims to significantly undercut competitors in terms of cost-effectiveness.