Vikram-S, India’s first privately developed launch vehicle, recently took off on its first flight from the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Sriharikota spaceport. The mission, dubbed Prarambh (the beginning), is the Indian private sector’s first push into the lucrative space launch market.

 

India’s space sector

  • Led by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), India’s space program has impressively evolved for the past 50 years.
  • In terms of technological capabilities India ranks among the top 5 space faring nations of the world.
    • India is globally recognised for building low-cost satellites and launch vehicles.
  • Despite having world’s most accomplished space program, India’s space sector accounts for only 2-3% of the global space economy.
    • The global space economy is estimated at US $440 billion.
  • To increase the share in the global business, Government of India has initiated the space sector reforms, to promote, handhold, regulate and authorise private enterprises and start-ups to undertake space activities.

 

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Approval in Space Sector

  • Presently, FDI in space is allowed under government route only for satellite establishment and operations.
  • FDI in space is approved by the Government on a case-by-case basis and often this approval takes time.
  • However, witnessing the change in approach of the Indian Government towards private players involvement, Indian companies will be allowed to invest up to 100% and 70% through FDI with approval of centre in all the streams Upstream, mid-stream and downstream segment.

 

About Mission Prarambh and Vikram-S

  • It is a mission in which ISRO launched Vikram-S, India’s first privately manufactured launch vehicle developed by Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace.
  • Vikram-S rocket, which is named after Vikram Sarabhai – the founder of India’s space programme, is a single-stage solid fuel suborbital launch
    • In a sub-orbital flight, the vehicle travels slower than the orbital velocity, which means it is fast enough to reach outer space, but not fast enough to stay in an orbit around the Earth.
  • The engine used in the launch vehicle – Kalam-80, is named after former president Dr A P J Abdul Kalam.
  • It will carry 3 customer payloads (2 Indian and 1 foreign), including one by SpaceKidz India called FunSat, parts of which were developed by school students.
  • The Vikram-S is a Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), which will carry between 290 kg and 560 kg payloads into sun-synchronous polar orbits.

 

 

Significance

  • The performance of the Vikram-S and its engine Kalam-80 will help test and validate technologies in the Vikram series space launch vehicles.
    • The company is designing 3 Vikram rockets that will use various solid and cryogenic fuels and have their core structure built using carbon composites.
    • The thrusters used for spin stability in the vehicle have been 3D printed.
  • The entry of private players in the space sector in India with more private sector missions coming soon.
    • For example, Agnikul Cosmos, whose semi-cryogenic Agnilet engine was test-fired recently at ISRO’s vertical testing facility at Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS), Thiruvananthapuram.
    • ISRO’s SSLV is also likely to be manufactured and operated by private players soon.
    • Around 100 start-ups have registered with the ISRO and are working closely with it in various domains of the space sector.