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India’s Skyroot Aerospace raises $51 million ahead of inaugural launch

The company recently formed a partnership with two Australian space companies — HEX20 and QL Space — as part of six industry-to-industry collaboration deals between India and Australia.
Pawan Kumar Chandana, right, co-founder of Skyroot Aerospace, and another co-founder Naga Bharath Daka. Credit: Skyroot Aerospace

SEOUL, South Korea — Skyroot Aerospace, an Indian rocket startup that aims to launch its solid-fueled Vikram S suborbital rocket by year’s end and orbital class Vikram 1 in 2023,  has raised $51 million in a Series B round led by Singapore sovereign investor GIC.

Skyroot said in a Sept. 3 news release the round will fund “infrastructure and initial developmental launches, enabling us to achieve commercial operations next year.”

Including $17 million raised through a seed round, Series A and a bridge round, the company has raised $68 million since its establishment in 2018. Investors include Google’s founding board member Ram Shriram’s Sherpalo Ventures, former Google senior vice president Amit Singhal, former WhatsApp chief business officer Neeraj Arora, and India’s renewable energy company Greenko Group. The latest funding enabled GIC’s India managing director, Mayank Rawat, to join Skyroot’s board, the rocket maker said in a Sept. 6 statement.

“This round puts us in a trajectory of hyper-growth by funding all of our initial launches, and enables building infrastructure to meet high launch cadence required by our satellite customers,” said Pawan Kumar Chandana, Skyroot co-founder and CEO, in the statement. 

Another co-founder, Naga Bharath Daka, said the latest round will “help us get to full-fledged commercial satellite launch scale within a year.” He said Skyroot has started booking payload slots for upcoming launches.

The Vikram S, which Skyroot is developing for its inaugural flight by the end of the year, is a single-stage, solid fueled sub-orbital rocket. Its flight will give the company a chance to test various subsystems and technologies that would be applied to its orbital-class vehicles — Vikram 1, Vikram 2 and Vikram 3.

The Vikram 1, whose inaugural flight is expected in 2023, is a solid-fueled, three-stage satellite launcher designed to deliver up to 500 kilograms of payload to low Earth orbit or sun-synchronous polar orbit, according to the company’s website. The rocket’s third stage successfully underwent a full-duration test in May, which lasted 108 seconds with a peak thrust of 22,000 pounds. Test firings of the rocket’s first and second stages are expected soon. 

The company is also developing Vikram 1 and Vikram 3, which are designed to carry heavier payloads with multiple orbital insertions. 

On top of this, Skyroot continues to expand its partnership with other space startups. In February 2021, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with India’s in-space propulsion system maker Bellatrix Aerospace, under which the latter’s orbital transfer vehicle will launch on a Skyroot’s rocket. 

The company recently formed a partnership with two Australian space companies — HEX20 and QL Space — as part of six industry-to-industry collaboration deals between India and Australia. Under the deals, HEX20, which provides satellite platforms and mission services, will work with Skyroot Aerospace to provide launch services, spacecraft avionics and components to Australian space initiatives. QL Space, a mining technology developer, will partner with Skyroot to further develop launch facilities in Australia and support joint mineral exploration missions in space.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said Skyroot aimed to conduct the first orbital launch of its Vikram 1 rocket by the end of 2022. It should have said Skyroot aims to conduct a suborbital launch by the end of 2022 of the Vikram S technology demonstrator rocket. Vikram 1’s first launch is planned for 2023. 

Park Si-soo

Park Si-soo covers space industries in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. Park worked at The Korea Times — South Korea's leading English language newspaper — from 2007 to 2020. He earned...