Skyroot Aerospace unveils Dhawan 1

Skyroot Aerospace unveiled the Dhawan 1 cryogenic engine today.

Skyroot Aerospace is a commercial launch vehicle service provider company based in Hyderabad. They hope to build a fleet of three small satellite launch vehicles called Vikram 1, Vikram 2 and Vikram 3. They hope to launch Vikram 1 in December 2021.

Dhawan 1. Image Credit: Skyroot Aerospace

Dhawan 1 is a cryogenic engine that uses liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquid oxygen as cryogenic propellants. The company says that their engine is 100% 3D printed in India. This will form the last stage of the Vikram 2 rocket. Vikram 2 is capable of lofting 520 kg to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Skyroot dedicated the engine to Prof. Satish Dhawan on his birth centenary.

Today is Prof. Satish Dhawan’s birth centenary. He was a fluid dynamics expert who was director of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru before becoming Chairman, ISRO after the death of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the founder of the Indian space program. He is credited with building up India’s communication and remote sensing satellite systems as well as development of India’s workhorse PSLV.

India also has had a tough time working with cryogenic engines. It tried to procure cryogenic engines from Russia. This was blocked by the USA. Following this, India began developing an indigenous cryogenic engine in the 1990s. Following many failures atop the GSLV, it finally became successful only in 2014. ISRO has since developed a stable of cryogenic rocket engines. Given this history, Skyroot’s success is appreciable.

They received a lot of attention in August 2020, when they became the first Indian aerospace company to test their Raman engine. Raman is the upper stage bi-propellant liquid rocket engine used for Vikram 1. Vikram 1 is capable of lofting 315 kg to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). A few days back they also fired the ballistic evaluation model motors of their solid rocket engines. They have shared the videos on their YouTube channel.

Test firing their Raman rocket engine
Firing a scaled down version of their solid fuel engine

I am waiting to watch a static fire test of this cryogenic engine and also the first flight of Vikram 1. Good luck to Skyroot Aerospace.

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