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NEW DELHI : Homegrown space startup, Agnikul Cosmos, opened on Wednesday the country’s first private factory dedicated to building rocket engines.

Located in Chennai, the facility was inaugurated by N. Chandrasekaran, chairman, Tata Sons, and S. Somanath, chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The new facility will use additive manufacturing technology to build 3D printed rocket engines, and will develop engines for its in-house rockets, according to the company.

Srinath Ravichandran, chief executive, Agnikul Cosmos, said the facility can currently build up to two rocket engines every week. This will allow it to build sufficient engines for the launch of Agnibaan, its two-stage launch vehicle, which is expected to happen by this year-end.

“Since companies and organizations looking to launch satellites no longer have access to Russian facilities, and launching aboard heavy rockets could be expensive, small orbital launch vehicles can help India win a large chunk of satellite launch orders in the near future," Ravichandran said. He added that the company will take an additional week to launch the Agnibaan rocket once the engines are ready.

Agnikul Cosmos said it already has partners who are preparing small-sized satellites for launch on Agnibaan, and that the factory will address this demand. Agnibaan is an ultra-light launch vehicle, which is even lighter than ISRO’s upcoming small, light commercial rocket, the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV).

While the SSLV can carry payloads of around 300kg, Agnibaan will be able to carry payloads of up to 100kg to low Earth orbits (LEOs) of up to 700km above Earth.

To be sure, Agnikul Cosmos is not the only entity building such small launch vehicles for use in commercial space missions. Another homegrown space startup Skyroot Aerospace is nearing a technology demonstration launch of its indigenous rocket, Vikram, later this year.

“Gaining the ability to build small, easy to build, and affordable rockets on a conveyor belt setup will help India build capacity to attract a larger chunk of the global satellite launch market," said Chaitanya Girl, a consultant at Research and Information System for Developing Countries, a New Delhi-based research institute.

With satellite internet operators, and space sensing and earth observation technology startups looking to deploy small satellite constellations in low Earth orbits, light and affordable rockets, and even ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLVs), which are being developed by an industry consortium comprising Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Larsen & Toubro, could all contribute to India offering multiple avenues for educational institutes, research organizations and private companies to launch their own satellites.

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