India’s Skyroot to Ramp Up Initial Rocket Launches Following $51M Investment

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Since its inception four years ago, space tech startup Skyroot Aerospace has become a key player in the Indian space commercialization race. Based in Hyderabad, Skyroot has privately developed India’s first indigenous fully cryogenic rocket engine that runs on propellants like liquid natural gas (LNG) and liquid oxygen (LoX), meant to fuel the upper stage of its series of three rockets, called Vikram. Representing a new major milestone for the company, the startup has just added €51 million in new capital as it accelerates plans to launch and scale its international presence.

Bringing its total raised to $67.6 million since 2018, this latest Series B round was led by Singapore-based global investment firm GIC. Described by the company as the largest funding round ever in the Indian private space tech sector, the funds will help Skyroot meet the burgeoning demand from the international small satellite market.

As part of the investment, GIC India Managing Director Mayank Rawat will join Skyroot’s board, following the recent addition of Anil Chalamalasetty and Mahesh Kolli, founder promoters of Greenko Group, as well as a representative of Solar Industries who joined the startup’s board of directors last year.

So far, Skyroot has successfully test-fired its Kalam-5 solid propulsion rocket engine, a larger version of which will be used to power the lower stages of its Vikram rocket—known as Kalam-100—followed by the testing of its cryogenic, hypergolic-liquid, and solid fuel-based rocket engines named Dhawan-1, in honor of Indian rocket scientist Satish Dhawan. The Dhawan-1 has been developed using 3D printing technology, helping reduce manufacturing time by more than 95%. Overall, Skyroot has demonstrated all its three propulsion technologies that will be used in its first series of Vikram-I launch vehicles.

Moving forward with its plan to develop and manufacture rockets that will hurl small satellites into space at an extremely low cost and with quick turnaround times, the national-award-winning startup announced last May the successful completion of a full-duration test-firing of its Vikram-I rocket stage.

The test-firing of the rocket stage took place at a private test range in Nagpur City, India, according to media site TechCrunch. That range belongs to Skyroot investor and industrial explosives, ammunitions, and propulsion systems manufacturer Solar Industries, also an investor in Skyroot.

Designed to carry up to 480 kilograms to low-inclination orbits, Vikram-I promises to be assembled and launched from any launch site within 24 hours. The spacecraft includes three solid fuel stages and a liquid-fueled kick stage designed to serve the small satellite launch market. Later this year, Skyroot plans to test launch the high-strength carbon fiber structure rocket, which is anticipated to lift off from a mobile launch pad or transporter, erector, and launcher (TEL).

Skyroot Aerospace is building access to space for India. Image courtesy of Skyroot Aerospace.

With a strong tech team of over 100 employees, Skyroot is envisioning a world where space flight is as affordable, regular, and reliable as air flight. For that to happen, the firm is taking critical steps to develop a series of space launch vehicles beyond Vikram-I. The flagship Vikram-II and Vikram-III will launch up to 500 and 800 kg of payloads to low Earth orbit (LEO), respectively, and plan to have the lowest cost in the payload segment.

With such an ambitious agenda, the latest investment not only represents a significant milestone for the company and the Indian space sector but will be used to fund all of Skyroot’s initial launches, enable building infrastructure to meet the high launch cadence required by its satellite customers and get to full-fledged commercial satellite launch scale within a year.

The company has already begun booking payload slots for upcoming launches, which according to Skyroot co-founder and CEO Pawan Kumar Chandana, are on track to start launching in early 2023. Aiming to service sectors such as telecommunications, space broadband, and earth observation, Skyroot’s Vikram series of rockets are scheduled to offer customized, dedicated, and rideshare options covering a broad spectrum of small satellite customer needs.

“Our goal is to become the best-in-class launch services provider and a go-to destination for affordable and reliable small satellite launches,” concluded Chandana.

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