by Douglas Messier
Indian startup Agnikul Cosmos signed a framework memorandum of understanding (MOU) with India’s Department of Space on Friday for access to ISRO facilities and expertise for the development of its two-stage small-satellite Agnibaan launch vehicle.
“The Framework MoU…will enable the company for undertaking multiple tests and access facilities at various ISRO centers for testing and qualification of their single piece 3D printed Semi Cryo engine and other systems. The MoU also enable Agnikul to avail technical expertise of ISRO for testing and qualifying their space launch vehicle systems and subsystems,” ISRO said in a press release.
“On the occasion, M/s Agnikul representatives also met Dr K Sivan, Secretary, DOS/ Chairman, ISRO and presented the progress of activities. While appreciating the young team, Dr K Sivan also assured all support from DOS for qualifying Agnikul launch vehicle systems,” the release added.
The MOU was signed nine months after Agnikul became the first private company to sign an agreement with the Department of Space under Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe) to work with ISRO to develop its launch vehicle.
The company’s two-stage Agnibaan rocket is designed to launch payloads weighing as much as 100 kg (220 lb) into 700-km (435-mile) high orbits. Depending upon the mission, the first stage can be configured to include 4-7 printed Agnite electric-pump fed engines powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene.
The second stage will have a single vacuum optimized Agnite engine. Agnite engines will be 3D printed using additive manufacturing. A third stage could be added for selected missions.
“Agnikul successfully test fired the world’s first 3D printed rocket engine – Agnilet. This higher stage semi cryogenic rocket engine is unique because it is completely 3D printed in one run, as a single component. Agnikul is the only company in the world that has designed a semi cryo rocket which can be fully built using 3D printing technology in one shot,” the company said in a press release.
Agnikul plans to offer clients a two-week time table from payload integration to launch once Agnibaan is operational.
“Agnibaan can access both low and high inclination orbits and is completely mobile – designed for accessing more than 10 launch ports,” the company said on its website.
Agnikul aims to complete its first launch in 2022. The company has signed an agreement with the Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) to launch from the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island.
Agnikul and Alaska Aerospace Corporation are working together to obtain regulatory and export control approvals from the Indian and American governments for an initial test launch sometime next year.
Agnikul Cosmos was founded in 2017 by Srinath Ravichandran, Moin SPM and Prof. SR Chakravarthy from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras. The startup was incubated at IIT Madras.
Agnikul has raised more than $14.1 million from investors. In May, Agnikul today announced that it had completed an $11 million Series A funding round led by Mayfield India. The round included existing investors pi Ventures, Speciale Invest, and Artha Ventures as well as the participation of BEENEXT, Globevestor, LionRock Capital and angel investors Anand Mahindra, Naval Ravikant, Balaji Srinivasan, Nithin Kamath, Abhishek Singhania, Aarthi Ramamurthy, and Sriram Krishnan, Anicut Angel Fund. Mayfield India’s managing partner, Vikram Godse, joined Agnikul’s Board of Directors.
Agnikul raised a seed round of funding from Speciale Invest in 2019. In March 2020, the company raised a $3.1 million pre-series 1 round from Speciale Invest, pi Ventures, Hari Kumar (LionRock Capital), Artha Ventures, LetsVenture, Globevestor, and CIIE.