On October 17, Agnikul Cosmos, a space tech firm located in Chennai, said that it has secured $26.7 million in a Series B round, underscoring the increasing significance of India’s space tech sector during the so-called fundraising winter.
The firm that was incubated at IIT Madras and produces launch vehicles has raised capital from a number of investors, including Celesta Capital, Rocketship.vc, Artha Venture Fund, and Artha Select Fund. Current investors, including pi Ventures and Speciale Invest, have also contributed to the venture. Their entire money raised now stands at $40 million.
The business, which is already preparing for the first launch of its suborbital rocket Agnibaan from Sriharikota, intends to use the money for commercialization and infrastructure investments, including launchpads.
As a technology demonstration, Agnibaan will assist in certifying the startup’s capabilities in preparation for their commercial launches.
Building capacity for future launches
Agnikul CEO and co-founder Srinath Ravichandran stated, “We have a good handle on the technology required to build the vehicle.” Therefore, we believed that in addition to concentrating on developing the initial fleet of vehicles, we also needed to begin considering what would happen after the initial launches. How are we going to organise ourselves as a business that handles several launches annually?”
“So this capital infusion will be about investing a little more in infrastructure and quality in operations, production; I think hiring the right kind of people for that and starting to plan for that,” he stated.
As the firm develops, Ravichandran hopes to be able to launch a rocket once every two weeks once it successfully launches Agnibaan and undertakes a few commercial launches. “I think what we’ll be able to present to our customers is a largely-risk-mitigated solution,” he stated.
Regarding the infusion of talent, Ravichandran stated that Agnikul now employs 225 people. “I think we will be getting around to 325 over the next year,” he stated.
Monsoon factor for their maiden launch
The Agnibaan Suborbital Technological Demonstrator, as the name implies, will be the first product released by Agnikul and will aid in the validation of the startup’s innovations. The launch vehicle is a single-stage design powered by Agnikul’s proprietary Agnilet, a single-piece, fully 3D-printed engine with a 6 kN semi-cryogenic output.
A suborbital rocket is a kind of rocket that can fly just above the atmosphere of Earth, but it can’t travel fast enough to enter an orbit around the planet.
“Agnibaan is now at Sriharikota. It is going through the last stages of rehearsals, dry integration tests, and so on. I have no idea how the actual monsoon will go. Additionally, some testing has to be done. But we should be able to target it after these issues are resolved, most likely before the end of this year,” he continued.
The rocket at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota, is being linked with the startup’s own launchpad. Agnibaan will launch vertically, flying along a predefined path and executing a well planned series of manoeuvres, according to a press statement from the company.
The firm, which was founded in 2017 by IIT Madras alumni Srinath Ravichandran, Moin SPM, and SR Chakravarthy, intends to democratise space exploration by making it more affordable and accessible.