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  • Writer's pictureayush devak

ISRO delivers rocket self-destruct mechanism for launch vehicle built by Indian start-up

The Indian space agency handed over the Flight Termination System (FTS) used in its own rockets, to Indian start-up Agnikul Cosmos. The Chennai-based launch vehicle company is in the process of building their own rocket 'Agnibaan'. The Flight Termination System (FTS), colloquially known as "kill-switch" is a crucial piece of technology that can be used to remotely self-destruct the rocket when it faces a serious anomaly or it deviates from the planned flight path, thus endangering life and property.

According to ISRO, the handing-over event marked the culmination of multiple rounds of interactions about interfacing, handling and using these systems on Agnikul's launch vehicle 'Agnibaan', in the presence of Director, VSSC and IN-SPACe teams.

Srinath Ravichandran, CEO and Co-Founder of Agnikul Cosmos told WION that the 'Agnibaan' vehicle is meant to be launched from ISRO's spaceport in Sriharikota and that the FTS is necessary to ensure a safe and controlled flight. He added that their rocket FTS had to be interfaced with ISRO's safety system. Queried about their company's maiden launch, he said that they were targeting it by 2022-end.

ISRO handing over this FTS to Agnikul Cosmos marks the first time that a system being used in ISRO's rockets, is being supplied to support a private firm that is building rockets in India. The FTS package is meant to be used for Agnikul's fully controlled sub-orbital launcher, that is expected to launch from India's spaceport SDSC SHAR, Sriharikota.

Generally, anything lofted above the 'Karman Line' (100kms above sea level) is considered a foray into space and those placed below the Karman Line are known as sub-orbital flights for upper-atmospheric experiments. Before making an orbital-class rocket, it is common for start-ups to build smaller rockets and fly them to the upper atmosphere and validate the launch vehicle technologies, flight hardware and sub-systems.

Recently, Agnikul's 3-D printed rocket engine was test fired successfully at a facility of Indian Space Research Organization. The Engine 'Agnilet' was test fired at the Vertical Test Facility at ISRO's Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC). This successful test marked a milestone in the private launch vehicle company's journey to building their spacefaring rocket 'Agnibaan'.

According to the company, this test was conducted with the support of IN-SPACe and ISRO and was meant to validate the technological possibility that rocket engines can be made as a single piece of hardware. Agnikul had recently announced that the Government Of India has awarded them the patent for the design and manufacturing of their single-piece rocket engines. 'Agnilet', one such single-piece engine, is the world's first single-piece 3D printed rocket engine fully designed and manufactured in India, it was successfully test-fired at IIT Madras in 2021.

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