World’s First Single Piece 3D-Printed Rocket Engine is Ready to Thrust its First Flight

At a time when private enterprises such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, etc. are making significant strides in conducting deep space missions, an Indian startup is slowly making in-roads in to the spacetech segment.

Agnikul Cosmos, a spacetech startup based out of Chennai, has successfully completed the flight acceptance test for its indigenous rocket engine ‘Agnilet’ which is claimed to be world’s first ever single-piece 3D printed rocket engine.

Here’s the full story.

Agnikul Cosmos was incubated by two Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, (IIT-Madras) graduates, Moin SPM and Srinath Ravichandran, in 2017. The company successfully set up India’s first ever 3D printed rockets manufacturing factory in July 2022 the company successfully test-fired ‘Agnilet’ rocket engine in November 2022.

The single piece 3D-printed engine will be used in ‘Agnibaan’, the indigenous 3D printed rockets. These rockets are claimed to carry a payload of up to 100 kg to low Earth orbits; up to 700 km. This small satellite launch vehicle is said to have the capability of getting configured to align with any space launch mission needs with the help of its plug-and-play engine configuration.

The ‘agnilet’ engine has now successfully completed its flight test and is ready to thrust the ‘agnibaan’ rocket for its first suborbital flight. According to industry experts, a flight acceptance test is conducted to measure and validate several different parameters. These include integrity of hardware, assessment of subsystems’ performance, and more.

Sources revealed that, during the test, ‘agnilet’ burnt for around 108 seconds, generating a sea-level thrust of 6 kilo Newton (6kN).

Talking of this huge step in the field of spacetech, CEO, and one of the co-founders Srinath Ravichandran said, “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.”

He continued by adding that, “In the very initial stage of our journey we realised that engines are a serious showstopper and are particularly complex pieces of hardware. So, what can be done to simplify the process of making them? That’s where we came across 3D printing as a new manufacturing technology. We had seen people attempt building aerospace parts with it”.

“We started pushing the boundaries of what it means to 3D print a rocket engine. Our committed team took it to a point where we could 3D print a rocket engine in just one shot. Back in 2018 itself, we realised that our rocket engines had to be 3D printed and that’s when I started doing designs with the team on how a 3D printed engine would look like,” adds Srinath.

Interestingly, this will not be the first private rocket launch in the country. Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched the first 3D printed rocket, Vikram-S, developed by Skyroot, a Hyderabad-based spacetech firm, in November 2022; Yes! The same month when agnilet was fire tested.

Co-founder & COO, Agnikul Cosmos, Moin SPM said, “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.”

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