Space startup Agnikul Cosmos has announced the successful test firing of their 3D printed rocket engine at an ISRO test facility in Thiruvananthapuram, India.
Last week, the printed Agnilet engine ran for 15 seconds at the Vertical Test Facility, at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), which is a facility owned and operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
The test was made possible due to a new policy by the Indian government which allows space startups to utilize ISRO facilities for their projects. Isro and Agnikul Cosmos have signed one such memorandum as part of the deal through the IN-SPACe, which is the agency responsible for promoting Indian space start-up interests.
The Agnilet engine is a semi-cryogenic engine printed out of Inconel-718, a nickel super-alloy valued for its high temperature resistance and dimensional stability.
The engine is fueled by liquid oxygen (LOX) and Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) and is capable of pumping out 3kN of thrust at sea level.
It was the world’s first single-piece 3D-printed metal rocket engine and was successfully test-fired at IIT Madras back in 2021 to prove the concept. The new test last week has validated the design and manufacturing methods used in production of the engine.
“This is an unforgettable moment for all of us here at Agnikul,” said Srinath Ravichandran, co-founder and CEO at Agnikul.
“Besides validating our in-house technology, this is also a huge step in understanding how to design, develop and fire rocket engines at a professional level. We are incredibly thankful to IN-SPACe and ISRO for making this happen. Also grateful to the Indian Government for having made such efforts possible by the creation of IN-SPACe.”
You can see an example of the printed Inconel Agnilet engine in the image below. The printed engine consists of an injector plate, combustion chamber, cooling channels, and throat section. Other 3D printed components include an electric LOX pump to push the cryogenic fluid into the engine’s combustion chamber.
The rockets will be produced at Rocket Factory-1 at the IIT Madras Research Park. The new facility will provide the complete capabilities for manufacturing rocket engines on the same premises.
“The private space ecosystem is growing in the right direction and also gets access to the state-of-art technologies to make and test world-class products inside the country,” said Moin SPM, Co-founder & COO at Agnikul.
“This is a major milestone for us and the Indian private space ecosystem.
With the efforts of IN-SPACe, the private space ecosystem is growing in the right direction and also gets access to the state-of-art technologies to make and test world class products inside the country. Thus, directly contributing to the Make in India and Aatmanirbhar bharat initiatives.”
Aatmanirbhar Bharat was an initiative started by Prime Minister Modi, and intends to make India a self-reliant nation.
Asides from the news of a successful hot fire test on the printed engine, there is other good news for the Indian space tech scene this week, as Skyroot Aerospace will launch India’s first private rocket next week. Their Dhawan-1 engine was also 3D printed.
Agnikul’s 3D-printed engine is expected to make a test flight by the end of 2022.