AGNIKUL: BRINGING EARTH-TO-SPACE JOURNEY WITHIN EVERYONE’S REACH

Magazine Tech

In 5 years, we would be capable of launching one rocket per week.

 Satya R. Chakravarthy (Co-Founder, Agnikul)

The Space Technology industry never fails to amaze the world with its continuous advancements and innovations. In 2016, Agnikul was just an idea on paper and in dreams. To bring transformation in the world of space technology, Agnikul Cosmos was incorporated as a company in Chennai, India in 2017. It is settled into the National Center for Combustion R&D at IIT Madras, Chennai.

“The word Agnikul” is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning “Gurukul”, a place where people learn to use fire. Agnikul comprises a group of highly talented, skilled, and experienced rocket scientists, engineers, programmers, lawyers, and many more who are working round the clock to make space accessible to everyone.

In 2018, the company fired its first set of igniters and single injector element-based thrusters. In the next year, Agnikul grew its presence in Kerala and became a part of the Kerala Startup mission startup community. It has recently test-fired the world’s first single piece 3D-printed rocket engine Agnilet. 

The company was Co-Founded by Satya R. Chakravarthy with Srinath Ravichandran and Moin SPM. Satya R. Chakravarthy is a professor of aerospace engineering at IIT Madras and has over 25 years of experience in space technology. Srinath Ravichandran is a Wall Street trader turned Aerospace Engineer with over 10 years of experience in Finance, Engineering, and Project Management. Moin SPM is an Operations Specialist with over 7 years of experience in Engineering Management, Manufacturing, and Supply Chain operations. 

WHAT MAKES AGNIKUL UNIQUE?

The USP of Agnikul is to make rockets that can be launched anywhere, and anytime, at affordable prices. It is one of the most customizable, nimble, and frugal launchers in the world with over a wide range of satellite payload sizes.

THE CLIENTELE

Agnikul deals with satellite makers. It ensures that all the rockets are highly customizable to their payload weight, and satellite makers can launch rockets whenever they want without waiting for other customers to ride-share with them. 

MISSION AND VISION OF THE COMPANY

The company’s vision is to bring space within everyone’s reach. The mission is to make 3D-printed modular rockets to frugally launch micro-satellites into orbits without any wait time and from anywhere in the world. 

In the next 5 years, it would be capable of launching one rocket per week and expanding its launch capability to 500 kg class at approximately the same price on a per kg basis of the payload.

TEAM ETHOS

The team of this fast-evolving startup follows a “can do” and “get done” attitude. Agnikul’s team jumps into whatever needs to be done, learns the ropes quickly, and aims to excel in it and become the best-in-class right away.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACED BY THE COMPANY

The biggest challenge that Agnikul faced was the absence of laws on private space launches in India in the company’s early years of establishment. The company overcame this problem by placing conviction in the country’s techno-political leadership to enable full private participation in the space sector by ushering in the needed reforms. Fortunately, it was successful in finding the investors to share this conviction as well. With the establishment of IN-SPACe by the government of India, Agnikul has been able to cope well with this challenge.

ADVICE FOR UPCOMING STARTUPS

“Technology is fast growing as an enabler to achieve complex goals and missions, but it is important not to be blindly carried away by the technological wizardry and focus on the business case of what problem/pain point are we solving for the customer, what is the market of such customers, what their growth potential is, and are the investments being sought in one’s business justifiable by such a market and the potential rate of return. Unless there is a business case, don’t get into tech blindly,” said Satya when asked to share a piece of advice for upcoming startups. 

DEFINITION OF SUCCESS

Satya defined the meaning of success and said, “Success has to start from the beginning and it starts with the audaciousness to dream big. Audacity creates a niche that attracts investors.  And, then success grows exponentially. According to my past experiences, initially, a startup would grow slowly and then much faster.”

He further added and said, “The sheer amount of goodwill that has been generated on what we are attempting to do is an indicator of how successful we have been.”

AWARDS AND MILESTONES

Since its inception, Agnikul has been the recipient of many prestigious awards. Some of the awards it has received are:

  • Selected for Airbus BizLabs Accelerator 2018
  • Economic Times Technology Award 2020
  • Top Innovator’ in ET Startup Awards – 2020 
  • Recognized as ‘Top 50 Start-Ups in India’ at TiE Silicon Valley at TiECON 2020. 
  • LinkedIn Top Startups 2021

The startup has also achieved various milestones. It has successfully:

  • Fired the world’s first most integrated single-shot 3D printed LOX-kerosene semi-cryo rocket engine multiple times to firm up its performance and developed the complete test stand for its firing on its own.
  • Realized a 3D printed LOX pump.
  • Developed and proof-tested composite-overwrapped pressure vessels.
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