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How Chennai space start-up Agnikul will use a truck and four caravans to launch satellites

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A cargo truck and four caravans are all that are required to launch small satellites.

That’s what Agnikul Cosmos, the Chennai-based space start-up, plans to do by using a mobile launch pad as against the structured spaceports at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh or Thumba in Kerala.

It plans a test launch in December end from Sriharikota, and commercial launches by the first quarter of 2023.

“Our goal is to launch a rocket every ten days, and a mobile launcher would be ideal for this,” said the company’s Co-founder and CEO Srinath Ravichandran.

The test launch in the mobile launch pad will happen in Sriharikota, he told businessline.

Rocket Business Is A Logistics Business Agnikul Cosmos’: Srinath Ravichandran

Chennai-based space start-up Agnikul Cosmos is set for a test launch by December-end in a sub-orbital level at 50 to 60 km from the Earth from ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Research Centre at Sriharikota.Video Credit: Credits: TE Raja Simhan; Video: Bijoy Ghosh; Producer:V Nivedita

‘It’s like a wedding!’

Ravichandran explained how it works.

“Our idea is to keep launching satellites as an event. It is like conducting a wedding. Somebody gives an empty hall. You take all your stuff with you, conduct the wedding and come back. Ours is a similar concept. Give us a piece of land that is authorised for launch. We will come there with our vehicle, launch support systems, fuel filling station, and the launch control room,” he said.

He added, “We will set up shop there and within 7-8 days, we will make the launch. This is compatible because the full infrastructure is mobile. We are not expecting ISRO or any other agency to give the huge umbilical tower or a crane of 200 tonnes. We don’t require any of that stuff but just need empty space. We can launch the rocket with a truck and four caravans.”

Ravichandran said one of the reasons for choosing liquid propulsion is to launch rockets using mobile launch pads. Solid-propellant-based rockets are explosive in nature and like a cracker. Anything can trigger an accident.

“However, for us it is like an empty bunch of empty metal cans, barrels and pipes. We can sit next to the vehicle until the fuel is filled into the rocket. This is important for us to take the vehicle from place to place and launch it. These were the early decisions that went into thinking of using liquid propulsion. Commercialization is also better when using liquid propulsion,” he said.

Advantage Kulasekarapattinam

Scenes of the Dusserah festival in Kulasai (Kulasekarapattinam), a small hamlet near Thoothukudi 

Scenes of the Dusserah festival in Kulasai (Kulasekarapattinam), a small hamlet near Thoothukudi 

Ravichandran was hopeful that Kulasekarapattinam, a coastal hamlet near the temple town of Tiruchendur in the Thoothukudi district in southern Tamil Nadu, quickly become a spaceport to help companies like Agnikul launch their rockets.

“It is a sweet spot for us. As there is no land between that place and Antarctica, it’s a beautiful belt for launches. The rules are that you cannot fly over a land mass if you are not in orbit. By the time you are flying over Antarctica, you are in orbit,” he said.

“For the orbit, you can either go parallel to the equator or go perpendicular (pole-to-pole). Thumba is also equally good, and we would be interested. The idea is to go to a place that is best for the mission. We don’t want to be stuck to one specific infrastructure,” Ravichandran added.

ISRO’s statement

Meanwhile, Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman, S Somanath, recently said that the proposed spaceport at Kulasekarapattinam will begin shortly after getting mandatory clearance from the Union government and security agencies.

There has been a plan to acquire 2,376 acres of land, including 141 acres of government land in Kulasekarapattinam. The State government nominated eight tahsildars to complete the land acquisition process.

As land acquisition has been completed, Somanath recently visited the proposed launch site at Koodal Nagar near Kulasekarapattinam.

Ravichandran is confident that soon Agnikul’s rockets will launch from here.

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Published on November 21, 2022

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