Agnikul’s single-stage tech demo rocket ‘SOrTeD’ launch called off after two ‘holds’ – Times of India


BENGALURU: Agnikul Cosmos, a spacetech startup, which hoped to make history with the inaugural test launch of its single-stage technology demonstrator rocket Agnibaan’s “SubOrbital Technological Demonstrator or SOrTeD”, called off the mission on Tuesday.
SOrTeD — a precursor for its Agnibaan launch vehicle —powered by a semi-cryogenic engine Agnilet was initially scheduled to be launched at 5.45am, but was put “on hold” due to technical glitches observed just minutes before the lift off.
While the company didn’t elaborate on the glitch, it returned to launch SOrTeD at 9.25am. This time, the launch authorisation was granted and the final countdown (T-10 onwards) began when another “hold” was announced to check on “ignition”. The mission was finally called off.
The mission, if successful, would have achieved three milestones: Demonstrating India’s first launch from a private launchpad, showcasing the country’s first semi-cryogenic engine-powered rocket launch, and utilising the first single-piece 3D-printed engine designed and built domestically to power a launch vehicle.
The key purpose of the Agnibaan’s “SubOrbital Technological Demonstrator or SOrTeD” mission, which was also Agnikul’s first flight, was to serve as a test flight, to demonstrate the in-house and home grown technologies, gather crucial flight data and ensure optimal functioning of systems for Agnibaan.
The IIT-incubated startup will now analyse available data to understand the cause for failure.
The firm had, earlier this year, scheduled SOrTeD for an April 7 launch, but was forced to postpone due to technical glitches just 129 seconds before lift-off.
“Had to call off today’s launch attempt of Agnibaan SOrTeD just a second into Automated Launch Sequence (ALS) initiation because of a communication issue between two of our onboard hardware. Although it is frustrating to see a HOLD this close to lift off, we are glad that our ALS did its job,” the firm had said on the day.
Unlike traditional sounding rockets that launch from guide rails, SOrTeD was designed to lift off vertically and follow a predetermined trajectory while performing a precisely orchestrated set of manoeuvres during flight.
Pointing out that one of the systems that differentiates a engine ground test fire from actual flight is the autopilot, the firm had said: “We characterised the gimbaling system using which the autopilot rotates the thrust at our own in-loop facility.”
The much-anticipated launch took place from India’s sole private launchpad — Agnikul Launch Pad (ALP) named ‘Dhanush’ — established at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Isro’s spaceport in Sriharikota, on Nov 25, 2022. It was conceived and built as a product that enables the process of launching to be reliable and repeatable with consistency. It is situated
Dhanush has two sections to it: ALP and the Agnikul mission control centre (AMCC). According to Agnikul, critical systems connecting these two sections, which are 4km away from each other, are designed to ensure 100% operationality during countdown.
“The launchpad is specifically built keeping in mind the ability to support liquid stage controlled launches, while also addressing the need for Isro’s range operations team to monitor key flight safety parameters during launches,” Agnikul had said. Additionally, it has the ability to, as is necessary, share data and other critical information with Isro’s mission control centre.
Agnilet, which powered the semi-cryogenic, kerosene-liquid oxygen-fueled rocket that lifted off Tuesday, is a sub-cooled liquid oxygen-based propulsion system developed indigenously. Multiple Agnilet engines will power the firm’s Agnibaan launch vehicle in the future.
Agnibaan is a two-stage launch vehicle designed to be highly customisable and capable of carrying a 300kg payload to a 700km orbit. And SOrTeD mission was a significant step forward for India’s burgeoning private space industry, especially because of the semi-cryogenic engine.

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