The startup presents the first 3D printed cryogenic motor developed privately in India
Hyderabad-based start-up Skyroot Aerospace has successfully demonstrated the country’s first privately-developed cryogenic rocket engine, named Dhawan-1 in honor of prominent rocket scientist Satish Dhawan.
The company will use the engine as the upper stage of its Vikram-2 launcher. Skyroot, one of the few startups to make a name for itself since India opened its space segment last year, has a series of three Vikram rockets that can carry payloads of up to 720 kg in low earth orbit.
The engine was completely 3D printed and made in India. The company used a superalloy for 3D printing the engine, which reduced manufacturing time by 95%.
“With this milestone, we have successfully demonstrated the three propulsion technologies of our Vikram space launcher series as a first step, demonstrating the great maturity of our team,” said Naga Bharath Daka, Co-Founder and COO of Skyroot Aerospace.
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Speaking of the ground test, prominent rocket scientist V Gnanagandhi, who leads the cryogenic propulsion team at Skyroot, said: “The complex engine starting and stopping transients are perfectly smooth, the combustion was very stable. and the pressure was stable. This is a phenomenal achievement of our team and we have mastered the handling of two cryogenic fuels.
Cryogenic engines use liquefied gases at temperatures as low as -150 ° C as propellants. They are very efficient and can help rockets carry heavier payloads. India’s heaviest launchers – GSLV and GSLV Mk III – use cryogenic fuel in the upper stage of the launcher.
Cryogenic engines are among the most difficult to develop and so far only six countries have such launchers, including the United States, China, Russia, France, Japan and India. India used its first GSLV in 2001. At least two private space companies – American Blue Origin and European Arianespace – have also developed cryogenic engines.
Not only is the technology used to make the engine new, but the fuel the company will use for the rocket is also forward-looking and environmentally friendly. The Skyroot cryogenic engine will use liquid natural gas (LNG) and liquid oxygen (LoX) as propellants. Almost all cryogenic engines in use today use a combination of liquid oxygen and hydrogen as fuel. LNG, made up of over 90% methane, is considered the rocket fuel of the future.
“The engine uses LNG and LoX at cryogenic temperatures as propellants, which are high performance, low cost and environmentally friendly. These are the rocket boosters of the future, and this test makes us one of the very few companies in the world to have successfully demonstrated this technology, ”said Pawan Kumar Chandana, Co-Founder and CEO of Skyroot.
For testing, Skyroot locally developed a mobile cryogenic engine test stand and tested the engine at one of its propulsion test facilities in Nagpur.