Agnikul Cosmos successfully launches world’s first 3D-printed rocket engine

Agnikul Cosmos, a space start-up incubated at IIT-Madras, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully launching its Agnibaan SOrTeD rocket. The launch took place at 7:15 A.M. on Thursday from Agnikul’s private launchpad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. This success follows four previous attempts that were called off in recent months.  

Celebrating the achievement, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) congratulated Agnikul Cosmos on social media, noting the significance of this milestone as the first controlled flight of a semi-cryogenic liquid engine created through additive manufacturing. 

Agnibaan SOrTeD is a single-stage launch vehicle powered by Agnikul’s patented Agnilet engine, a 3D-printed, single-piece, 6 kilonewtons (kN) semi-cryogenic engine. It is also designed as a two-stage vehicle capable of placing payloads of up to 100 kg into low-Earth orbit, approximately 700 km away.  

Co-founder Srinath Ravichandran expressed relief and pride, noting that the months of sleepless nights had paid off with the successful launch meeting all mission objectives. He highlighted the in-house design of the launch vehicle, emphasizing the complexity of powering it with the world’s first single-piece 3D-printed engine. 

Satyanarayanan R Chakravarthy, a founding advisor of Agnikul Cosmos and head of the National Centre for Combustion Research and Development (NCCRD) at IIT Madras, underscored the mission’s historic nature. He pointed out that this was India’s first semi-cryo rocket engine and the world’s most integrated single-shot 3D-printed piece, showcasing an unparalleled ability to rapidly assemble rockets.  

Founded in 2017 by aerospace engineers Srinath Ravichandran and Moin SPM, along with IIT-Madras faculty member Sathyanarayan R Chakravarthy, Agnikul Cosmos was the first Indian company to sign an agreement with ISRO in December 2020. The team comprises over 200 engineers and is closely associated with the NCCRD at IIT Madras. They are also guided by 45 former ISRO scientists, whose expertise is crucial in their mission to democratize access to space. 

The primary purpose of this mission was to serve as a test flight, demonstrating Agnikul’s in-house technologies, gathering crucial flight data, and ensuring the optimal functioning of systems for their orbital launch vehicle, Agnibaan. Co-founder and COO Moin SPM emphasized that Agnibaan SOrTeD is just the beginning and expressed hope for contributing significantly to India’s technological and economic growth. 

Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar lauded Agnikul’s achievement, highlighting the historical significance of the launch from India’s only private launchpad. He mentioned that this was the world’s first flight with a single-piece 3D-printed rocket engine and India’s first with a semi-cryogenic engine.  

The success of Agnibaan SOrTeD is a promising indicator of the future of India’s private space sector. It aligns with the new guidelines for the Indian Space Policy 2023 and updated FDI regulations, which aim to boost global confidence in India’s growing capabilities.