In just over a year since they completed fabrication of a prototype engine, Skyroot Aerospace, a firm founded and led by former Isro scientists, has successfully tested India’s first privately developed fully Cryogenic rocket engine — ‘Dhawan-I’ — running on two high-performance rocket propellants, Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) & Liquid Oxygen (LoX).
As reported by TOI earlier, Skyroot kicked off India’s first private project to develop a small fully cryogenic engine with fabrication of a prototype engine to be used as a technology demonstrator in September 2020.
Reiterating that cryogenic engines are highly efficient rocket propulsion systems that use propellants at cryogenic temperatures (less than -150° Celsius), the firm said fully cryogenic engines are highly suitable for the upper stages of a rocket as they have a higher specific impulse that enhances payload carrying capability.
This technology is challenging to master and has been demonstrated only by very few countries. V Gnanagandhi, one of the pioneers of cryogenic rocket propulsions in the country and now the head of cryogenic propulsion team at Skyroot, said: “The complex engine start and shut-off transients are perfectly smooth, combustion was very stable, and pressure was rock steady. This is a phenomenal achievement by our team and we’ve mastered handling two cryogenic fuels.”
Skyroot has named its cryogenic engine Dhawan-I in honour of former Isro chairman Satish Dhawan, a key architect of India’s space programme.
The test, the firm added, demonstrated the propulsion technology in the upper stage of Skyroot’s orbital vehicle Vikram-2. Skyroot indigenously developed a mobile cryogenic engine test stand and tested the engine at a one of its kind propulsion test facility at Solar Industries India in Nagpur. Solar Industries is also an investor in Skyroot.
Naga Bharath Daka, co-founder & COO, said that with this milestone “the firm has successfully demonstrated all the three propulsion technologies in its Vikram series of space launch vehicles in the first attempt itself, exhibiting great maturity of our team.”
Pawan Kumar Chandana, co-founder & CEO, stating that LNG and LoX are high performance, low-cost, and green, said: “…These are rocket propellants of the future, and this test makes us one of the very few companies in the world to have successfully demonstrated this technology.”
He added that the engine was a completely made-in-India cryogenic engine developed using 3D printing with a superalloy, reducing manufacturing time by more than 95%.
“Designing, realising and testing cryogenic rocket engines fully in the private sector is a great milestone for the country. Solar industries is proud to partner with Skyroot in carrying out this test successfully in our first of its kind, world class facility in India,” Manish Nuwal, MD and CEO, Solar Industries India, said.




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