What has happened?
- The technology that has so far been mastered by only a handful of space agencies of the US, Russia, China, Europe and Japan, has now been demonstrated by homegrown space-tech startup, Skyroot Aerospace.
- India’s has successfully demonstrated the country’s first privately developed cryogenic rocket engine named Dhawan-1 after eminent rocket scientist Satish Dhawan.
What is cryogenics?
- Cryogenics is the study of the production and behaviour of materials at extremely low temperatures (below -150 degree Centigrade),
- To lift and place the heavier objects in space.
- A cryogenic engine/ cryogenic stage is the last stage of space launch vehicles which makes use of Cryogenics.
- Cryogenic stage is technically a much more complexed system with respect to solid or liquid propellant stages due to the usage of propellants at extremely low temperatures.
- A cryogenic engine provides more force with each kilogram of cryogenic propellant it uses compared to other propellants,
- Such as solid and liquid propellant rocket engines and is more efficient.
Fuel in cryogenic engine
- Cryogenic engine makes use of Liquid Oxygen (LOX) and Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) as propellants which liquefy at -183 deg C and -253 deg C respectively.
- LOX and LH2 are stored in their respective tanks.
- From there they are pumped in to turbo pump by individual booster pumps to ensure a high flow rate of propellants inside the combustion/thrust chamber.
Where it will be used?
- The company will use the engine as the upper stage of its Vikram-2 launch vehicle.
- Skyroot, one of the few startups that have come to prominence since India opened up its space sector last year,
- Has a series of three Vikram rockets that can carry payloads up to 720 kg to the low earth orbit.
How it was made?
- The engine has been completely 3D printed and made in India.
- The company used a superalloy for 3D printing the engine, which reduced the manufacturing time by 95%.
- “With this milestone, we have successfully demonstrated all the three propulsion technologies in our Vikram series of space launch vehicles in the first attempt, exhibiting great maturity of our team,” said Naga Bharath Daka, co-founder and COO of Skyroot Aerospace.
About the test
- For testing, Skyroot indigenously developed a mobile cryogenic engine test stand and tested the engine at one of its kind propulsion test facilities in Nagpur.
- The engine was test fired for about 20 seconds as part of the demonstration.
- A team of around 20 rocket engineers worked on this project for nearly two years.
- Speaking about the ground-based test, eminent rocket scientist V Gnanagandhi, who heads the 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.”
- Cryogenic engines are one of the hardest to develop and so far only six countries have these launch vehicles including the US, China, Russia, France, Japan, and India. India used its first GSLV in 2001.
- At least two private space companies – American Blue Origin and European Arianespace – have developed cryogenic engines as well.
- Not only is the technology used to manufacture the engine new, but the fuel that the company will be using for the rocket is also future-looking and green.
- The Skyroot cryogenic engine will use Liquid Natural gas (LNG) and Liquid Oxygen (LoX) as propellants.
- Almost all cryogenic engines in use today use a combination of liquid oxygen and hydrogen as fuel.
- LNG, which is more than 90% methane, is considered the rocket fuel of the future.
- “The engine uses LNG and LoX at cryogenic temperatures as propellants, which are high performance, low-cost, and green.
- These are the 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,” Said Pawan Kumar Chandana, co-founder and CEO, Skyroot.
- Now, after successfully demonstrating the technology, the startup will work on scaling it up to build a bigger engine that will be flying to space in its Vikram-2 launch vehicle in 2023.
Q) Why are the orbits of satellites outside of the earth’s atmosphere?
- The orbit needs to be elliptical
- The orbit needs to be circular
- Within the atmosphere, the satellite spirals down to the earth
- Drag losses are absent outside the atmosphere