ISRO decides to partner with industry to launch space-themed merchandise

Skyroot Aerospace's program to launch India's first-ever privately-designed and developed rocket, Vikram-1, received a boost with the Department of Space entering into a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with the Hyderabad-based company building small satellite launch vehicles.

The NDA signed on Tuesday will enable the company, run by former ISRO scientists, to access the facilities and technical expertise available in ISRO centres to proceed with its launch vehicle development program.

Indian Space Research Organisation's Scientific Secretary R. Umamaheswaran signed the agreement on behalf of Department of Space and Skyroot Aerospace CEO Pawan Kumar Chandana signed the agreement from the company's side.

Skyroot representatives also met ISRO chief Dr K. Sivan, who assured all support to Skyroot for testing and qualifying their launch vehicle.

Chandana told IANS that the NDA marks the formal beginning of their working with ISRO.

"From this point onwards, we will exchange data and we will exchange technical expertise, especially from ISRO to us that will enable us to do our program faster and more reliably because we will have ISRO's strength along with us now and we get to use all testing facilities including testing and launching," he said.

Chandana, a former ISRO scientist, pointed out that the national space agency has a committee which gives all approvals including for utilisation of test facilities.

Chandana, who founded Skyroot along with former ISRO scientists Naga Bharath Daka and Vasudevan Gnanagandhi, said they plan to launch their first rocket by the end of 2021.

"We are planning to do a launch by the end of this year. For that, all hardware, propulsion will be tested at ISRO," he said.

The company's vision for Indian space is rapid development of complex aerospace systems with lean use of resources. "We are building the first private Indian launch vehicle to put a satellite in orbit and marching ahead to compete for a reasonable share in the international small satellite launch market which is estimated to be $16Bn in the next decade," says Chandana on the company website.

Skyroot is developing a family of rockets especially crafted for the small satellite market and named after Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India's space program.

Built on common architecture and covering a wide range of payloads, they offer the most affordable and on demand ride to space.

Vikram-I requires minimal range infrastructure and can be assembled and launched within 24 hours from any launch site.

Skyroot has already achieved few milestones in its journey to launch the first rocket. It successfully test-fired its first solid rocket propulsion stage demonstrator. Named Kalam-5, it is first of the five engines the company plans to test.

Backed by investors like Myntra founder Mukesh Bansal, the company has raised $4.3 million till now and plans to raise another $15 million during the current year.