First privately built Indian space rocket launches


The half-ton Vikram-S rocket launched before noon local time and traveled in an arc.

India’s first privately developed rocket blasted off into the upper reaches of the atmosphere on Friday, in another milestone in the country’s drive to become a major space power.

The half-ton Vikram-S rocket launched before noon local time and traveled in an arc, live images from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) showed.

It splashed safely into the sea six minutes later, according to the agency.

The rocket, developed by local startup Skyroot Aerospace, reached a maximum altitude of 90 kilometers (55 miles), below the internationally recognized 100 km Karman line that separates Earth from outer space.

“Indeed, it is a new beginning, a new dawn…in the journey of India’s space programme,” Science Minister Jitendra Singh said after the launch to a cheering crowd of technicians at the India launch facility. ISRO on the southern island of Sriharikota.

The single-stage, solid-fuel rocket was built with “carbon composite structures and 3D-printed components,” the government said Thursday ahead of the first Vikram-S mission, dubbed “Prarambh” (“Start”).

India has been beefing up its space program in recent years, including a Russian-backed manned mission scheduled for 2023 or 2024.

Its capabilities and ambitions have grown, highlighted by the success of its rockets and missions beyond Earth.

In 2014, India became the first Asian nation to reach Mars with its Mangalyaan orbiter. Hailed for its low cost, that mission put India in a small club that includes the United States, Russia and the European Union.

And in 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed India as a “space superpower” after it shot down a low-orbiting satellite, a move that drew criticism for the amount of “space junk” it created.

India is also working to increase its two percent share of the global commercial space market.

In October, ISRO’s heaviest rocket successfully placed 36 broadband satellites into low-Earth orbit.

Experts say India can keep costs down by copying and adapting existing space technology, and thanks to an abundance of highly-skilled engineers who earn a fraction of the salaries of their foreign counterparts.


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