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What Skyroot's Vikram-S lacked in spectacle, it made up for in significance

Mission Prarambh, a momentous day for Indian space ecosystem, was all of substance and not of show and rightly so

November 19, 2022 / 11:56 AM IST

It was a warm day with haze that clouded visibility at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh at 11.30 am. As the voice from a speaker counted down from 10, scores of journalists on the roof of a building at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) craned their necks, cameras and phones towards the sky.

Around 6-7 km from the spot, behind a small forest and hidden from public view, was Vikram-S, a 546 kg launch vehicle by Hyderabad-based space tech startup Skyroot Aerospace; soon to become India's first privately manufactured rocket getting launched into space.

As the countdown hit zero, the sound of a rocket engine cracked open the sky. Eager onlookers stared hard at the horizon, trying to catch a glimpse of the blue and white rocket.

But sadly, it was nowhere to be found.

Before anyone had realised, Vikram-S had already shot off into the upper atmosphere, leaving behind a wriggly trail of rocket engine plume etched on the sky, for amused scribes to capture on their cameras.

Also Read: Meet the team firing up India’s first private rocket launch

But what Skyroot's Vikram-S lacked in spectacle, it made up for in significance.

Behind the scenes, Vikram-S, in its nearly 5-minute flight it reached an altitude of 89 kilometres (beyond its targeted 80km) where it deployed three customer payloads. After that it splashed down in the Bay of Bengal, 121 km from the launch site.

Apart from permanently writing themselves in the history books for being the first private rocket company from India to launch into space, they also proved that India's youth was capable of successfully creating and deploying such technologies and applications for space.

The significance of the event was not lost on authorities as minister of state in science and technology Dr Jitendra Singh presided as the chief guest  for the event, apart from other dignitaries such as Indian Space Research Organisation chairman S Somanath, In-SPACE chairman Pawan Goenka etc.

Also Read: All you need to know about India's first private sector rocket

Even, Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined in the post-launch greetings terming Skyroot's feat a 'historic moment for India'.

"A historic moment for India as the rocket Vikram-S, developed by Skyroot Aerospace, took off from Sriharikota today! It is an important milestone in the journey of India’s private space industry. Congrats to @isro & @INSPACeIND for enabling this feat," Modi tweeted.

Later in the day, after the initial celebrations died out in the Vikram S mission control room, the dignitaries made a beeline to the Media Centre at SDSC to address journalists gathered there.

"You know I judge the success of an event by the number  of journalists who turn up," said one of the dignitaries as they took their seat on the podium. Minister Singh joined in, as did ISRO chief Somanath, In-SPACE's Goenka, and others.

However, missing from the podium were the 'men of the moment', Skyroot founders Pawan Kumar Chandana and Naga Bharat Daka.

Their absence did not go unnoticed as minister Singh after waiting for a while for them to join, in a lighter note, said that they were the day's heroes, and that they were justified in being late.

The duo finally walked in hurriedly a moment later and the conference began with much aplomb. It ended an hour later to mark the successful ending of a long week for Skyroot Aerospace.

"How will you guys be celebrating this launch?" a Skyroot employee was asked. "Sleeping" he replied, indicating countless sleepless nights that went behind this feat.

While Friday's launch by Skyroot Aerospace may have been the first, it certainly won't be the last. The startup is now gearing up for the next year launch of their Vikram I orbital rocket, that will deploy satellites into space.

However, before that, Chennai-based startup Agnikul Cosmos is going to test launch their Agnibaan rocket from Sriharikota in December. The startup in fact, got their engine successfully tested at an ISRO facility a few weeks back. Onwards and upwards!

Aihik Sur covers tech policy, drones, space tech among other beats at Moneycontrol
first published: Nov 19, 2022 07:29 am