Indian Private Launch Provider Skyroot Aerospace Raises $4.5 Million

Vikram boosters (Credit: Skyroot Aerospace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

HYDERABAD, India — Small satellite launch company Skyroot Aerospace reports that it has raised $4.5 million in bridge funding as part of its Series B fund-raising round.

Early Google investor Ram Shriram led the bridge round through his venture capital firm Sherpalo Ventures. Wami Capital co-led the funding round with former Google executive Amit Singhal and existing investor and former WhatsApp chief business officer Neeraj Arora, Indian media report.

The bridge round brings the total raised to date by Skyroot to $17 million. The company is looking to raise a total of $40 million this year to fund development of its family of Vikram boosters.

Skyroot received previous financial backing from Curefit founders Mukesh Bansal and Ankit Nagori. TechCrunch describes CureFit as “a health and fitness company offering digital and offline experiences across fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being.”

Skyroot was founded by three former ISRO employees — Pawan Kumar Chandana, Naga Bharath Daka and Vasudevan Gnanagandhi — who are looking to take advantage of India’s decision to allow private space companies to operate in the previously government controlled space sector.

Vikram boosters will launch payloads ranging from 225 kg to 720 kg depending upon the rocket used and the orbit desired. Skyroot says the boosters can be assembled and launched within 24 to 72 hours with minimal infrastructure. Vikram launch vehicle specifications follow.

Vikram I

  • 225 kg to 500 km sun synchronous polar orbit (SSPO)
  • 315 kg to 45º inclination 500 km low Earth orbit (LEO)
  • Highly reliable solid propulsion stages with proven design heritage.
  • Orbital Adjustment Module with re-start capability enables multi-orbit insertions.
  • Requires minimal range infrastructure. Can be assembled and launched within 24 hours from any launch site.

Vikram II

  • 410 kg to 500 km SSPO
  • 520 kg to 45º inclination 500 km LEO
  • Advanced methalox engine replaces third stage of Vikram 1.
  • Upper stage cryo-engine with re-start capability enables multi-orbit insertions.
  • Requires minimal range infrastructure. Can be assembled and launched within 72 hours from any launch site.

Vikram III

  • 580 kg to 500 km SSPO
  • 720 kg to 45º inclination 500 km LEO
  • Upgrade to Vikram 2 with additional low-cost strap-on solid rocket boosters.
  • Upper stage engine with re-start capability enables multi-orbit insertions.
  • Requires minimal range infrastructure. Can be assembled and launched within 72 hours from any launch site.

Skyroot is looking to conduct Vikram I’s maiden launch at the end of 2022.

Dhawan-1 cryogenic engine (Credit: Skyroot Aerospace)

The launch vehicles are named for Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, who is known as the father of Indian space program. The physicist and astronomer helped found and served as chairman of the Indian National Committee for Space Research, which later became the nation’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Skyroot is developing the Dhawan-1 engine for use in the upper stage of the Vikram II booster. The company said the engine, which will be powered by liquified natural gas and liquid oxygen, will be 100 percent 3D printed using additive manufacturing.

Satish Dhawan was an Indian aerospace engineer who was a pioneer in experimental fluid dynamics research. He served as the third chairman ISRO. The nation’s spaceport bears his name.

Dhruva, which bills itself as India’s first private space company, builds satellites weighing from less than 1 kg (2.2 lb) up to 300 kg (661 lb) for commercial, scientific and defense purposes in low Earth orbit and higher. Dhruva also markets a small satellite deployer and provides hosted payload opportunities.

In November, Skyroot reported that it has signed a launch deal with satellite provider Dhruva Space. The company tweeted that Dhruva “booked to send their smallsats and deployers to space on our launch vehicle Vikram 1.”

Skyroot has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Precious Payload, a New York City-based company that helps arrange rocket launches for satellite producers. Both agreements were signed during the International Astronautical Congress in Dubai, UAE.

Skyroot and India’s Department of Space have signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that will enable the Hyderabad-based startup to access the facilities and technical expertise available in ISRO centers to proceed with development of the Vikram launch vehicles.