In a first, space dept signs pact with Hyderabad startup to provide access to Isro facilities


NEW DELHI: With the objective to woo private players in space activities, the department of space (DoS) has signed its first-ever agreement with a Hyderabad-based space startup, Skyroot Aerospace, for providing it “access to Isro’s facilities and expertise towards the development and testing of subsystems and systems of space launch vehicles”.
Skyroot Aerospace has, therefore, become the first Indian startup to formally enter into an agreement with Isro for using its assets since the announcement of the new policy decision of the Modi government in May last year when finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman opened up the space sector and Isro facilities for private players.

Isro’s scientific secretary and chairman of interim IN-SPACe committee R Umamaheswaran, who represented DoS, and Skyroot Aerospace CEO Pawan Chandana signed a framework MoU on Saturday. During the signing of the MoU, Skyroot representatives met Isro chairman K Sivan and presented the status of their space activities. Sivan assured all support to the Skyroot team for successfully realising its launch vehicle programme.
Talking to TOI, the Isro chairman said, “Two companies — Agnikul and Skyroot Aerospace — are working on small rockets and have therefore approached us for using our facilities for launching their vehicles. We have signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), first with Agnikul and then Skyroot Aerospace. NDA is signed before we expose our facilities and technical expertise to a company. Once an NDA is signed, then only we can allow a company to visit our facilities. Once the company has visited our facilities and interacted with Isro officials, we then sign a framework MoU with it. Skyroot is, therefore, the first company with whom we have signed the MoU. Agnikul is also expected to sign the MoU very soon.”
The MoU will enable Skyroot to undertake multiple tests and access facilities of various Isro centres and help it avail of technical expertise of the space agency for testing and qualifying their space launch vehicle systems and subsystems, an Isro statement said.
Skyroot Aerospace has been developing its first launch vehicle Vikram-I, which is on track for an expected launch next year. In August 2020, the company came to the limelight when it test-fired the Raman-I hypergolic-fuel upper stage (named after C V Raman). This solid-fuel upper stage is a component of Vikram-I and Skyroot Aerospace was the first desi private entity to test such a stage. On December 22, 2020, Skyroot Aerospace tested the solid-fuel rocket engine Kalam-5, the first of five planned carbon-composite Kalam rocket motors that are expected to power its launch vehicles.
Skyroot Aerospace was formed in January 2017 by former Isro scientists Pawan Kumar Chandana, Naga Bharath Daka and Vasudevan Gnanagandhi as well as a small group of entrepreneurs, including CureFit founders Mukesh Bansal and Ankit Nagor. The company has raised $11 million in its series A round of funding. This is nearly 10 times the $1.5 million the rocket building entrepreneurs, Chandana and Daka, had raised in 2018. Recently, Daka, co-founder and COO of Skyroot Aerospace, said, “We intend to raise $40 million more to fund our aggressive growth plans over the next few years.”

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