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Indian space startup Agnikul raises USD 3 million to fuel up rocket engine 3D printing

Space industry across the globe has grown significantly into a USD 350 billion market.

Image of a satellite in space. Source: Shutterstock

Chennai-based space-tech startup Agnikul, which claims to be the first startup worldwide to 3D print rocket engines, said Wednesday it has raised USD 3.16 million in its pre-Series A round led by Pi Ventures, with participation from Hari Kumar (LionRock Capital), Artha Ventures, LetsVenture, Globevestor, CIIE, and existing investor Speciale Invest.

The company, without going into details, said it will use the funding for team growing and ground testing.

“This round of investment…is a meaningful velocity boost to our journey and will directly help us get much closer to orbit,” Srinath Ravichandran, co-founder and CEO of Agnikul, said in a statement.

Launched in 2017 by Ravichandran and Moin SPM, the company is developing a satellite launch vehicle for a payload capacity of up to 100 kgs. In a statement, the company said the vehicle is configurable and can support a payload of 30-100 kgs.

The company uses 3D printing technology to make single piece rocket engines, thus keeping the cost and time of production minimal. It claims it can deliver launch vehicles within weeks. Talking to local media Economic Times, Ravichandran said, “The key is flexible configuration with quality so we are able to launch on demand. We can build an engine in one or two days. Cost is a big differentiator and we can do this from India.”

Since the engine is fully 3D printed, the complexities of physically manufacturing a traditional rocket engine, such as cutting and melding are being done away with. Instead, the company simulates the design and built of a rocket engine using computer software, making it an easier and cheaper fabrication process.

“We started Agnikul with the dream of bringing space within everyone’s reach. We are doing this by building nimble, reliable, and modular rockets that can put small satellites in space on-demand,” Ravichandran said in a statement.

The company is targeting small satellite makers to use its products. “These companies make satellites and launch them for remote sensing, communications or other applications. We will charge a per kg launch fee. We intend to make it a flat per kg cost over a wide range so that most small satellites can be launched at the same per kg cost,” Ravichandran told KrASIA.

Agnikul has a 50-member team of rocket scientists and engineers which is working with the vision to make space both accessible and affordable.

“I have always believed that India has the potential and the talent to create world-beating IPs and products, not just in the digital domain but also beyond. If done right, there is no doubt in my mind that India can be a leader in innovation on a global platform,” Manish Singhal, Founding Partner, Pi Ventures, said in a statement.

Although Agnikul claims it’s the world’s first space-tech company to build rocket engines using 3D print, India is bustling with startups in this space. Startups such as Bellatrix Aerospace, Dhruva Space, Team Indus, and Kawa Space among a dozen others are working in their own capacities. While Dhruva Space builds private commercial satellites and is looking to raise money, Bellatrix Aerospace raised USD 3 million in pre-Series A round in June last year.

Citing various reports, Agnikul said the space industry across the globe has grown into a USD 350 billion market with many private players entering the sector. It is predicted that in 2022, over 2500 small satellites would be launched compared to less than 500 today.