Moim S P M (left) and Srinath Ravichandran, co-founders, Agnikul Cosmos
Indian aerospace start-up Agnikul Cosmos has become the world’s first company to test a single piece, fully 3D printed rocket
engine. The Chennai-based manufacturer, which is developing the country’s first private small satellite launch vehicle, Agnibaan, has successfully fired its higher-stage semi-cryogenic engine, which it calls Agnilet.
This is a unique rocket
engine because it is completely 3D printed as a single component, in one run of the printer. This goes to prove the efficacy of Agnikul’s engineering architecture behind its orbital class vehicle Agnibaan’s propulsion systems, said the IIT Madras incubated start-up.
Agnibaan, the rocket, will be capable of carrying up to 100 kg of payload to low Earth orbits up to 700 km with a plug-and-play engine configuration.
Its entire engine, Agnilet, is one piece of hardware from start to finish and has zero assembled parts.
"We don’t think anyone in the world has ever pushed 3D printing
of a rocket
engine to this extent, and we couldn’t be happier to have conceived, designed, realised and test fired this engine fully in India,” said Srinath Ravichandran, CEO and co-founder of Agnikul Cosmos.
> In September 2020, Hyderabad-based space start-up Skyroot Aerospace unveiled its fully 3D printer cryogenic rocket engine. Called Dhawan-I, it is yet to be tested. The engine will be used to power Skyroot’s built-from-scratch rocket, Vikram-II
> SpaceX and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have been experimenting with 3D printing
parts of their engines
Rocket engines usually have hundreds of parts – injectors to inject fuel into the engine; cooling channels to cool the engine; the igniter for the propellants, and so on. Agnilet was designed in such a manner so as to encapsulate all of these into just one piece of hardware. This automates the making of an entire engine, said Ravichandran.
“From Agnikul’s operations standpoint, we are relieved that we would not have to track or manufacture numerous parts to realise a rocket engine from now on,” said Moin SPM, cofounder and COO of Agnikul Cosmos. “All that remains after printing is bare minimum post processing after which the engine can directly be assembled in our launch vehicle,” he added.
Agnikul, which was founded in 2017, has been testing engines at a smaller scale, or those that were not 100 per cent additively manufactured, since September 2018. This is the first time the company has demonstrated firing of a semi-cryogenic fully 3D printed rocket engine.