Rocket launch startup Skyroot is closing out 2020 with a key milestone in the development program for their Vikram-I launch vehicle: A successful test firing of a solid rocket propulsion stage that serves as a demonstrator of the same tech to be used in the production Vikram. This is the first time that a private Indian company has designed, built and tested a solid rocket propulsion stage in its entirety, and follows a successful engine burn test of an upper-stage prototype earlier this year.
Skyroot also created its solid rocket stage using a carbon composite structure whose manufacturing process is entirely automated, the company says. That allows it to realize weight savings of up to five times versus use of steel, a material typically used to house solid rocket propellant stages. The goal is to use the same process in the production of the final version of Vikram-I, which will help the small launch vehicle realize big benefits in terms of cost, in addition to the reliability benefits that come with the relatively uncomplicated fundamental design of solid rockets, which have no moving parts and therefore less opportunity for failure.
The final third-stage Vikram-1 engine will be 4x the size of this demonstrator, and Skyroot is also in the process of manufacturing four other test solid rocket motors, which have a carrying range of thrust, and which will be tested throughout the course of next year as work finishes on their construction.
Skyroot aims to perform its first Vikram-I launch by next December, supported in part by the Indian Space Research Organization. The company has raised $4.3 million to date, and says it's currently in the process of raising another $15 million. which it'll aim to close next year. It's set to become the first private Indian company to build and operate private launch vehicles, with the regulatory framework now in place to allow that to happen since India opened up private launcher operations earlier this year.