Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace has unveiled its fully 100% 3D printed cryogenic rocket propellant engine ‘Dhawan-1’, which is India’s first privately developed indigenous rocket engine which runs on liquefied natural gas (LNG) as fuel.
Skyroot Aerospace has already tested a solid-fueled engine, but the cryogenic engine is even more significant because of the extreme complexity in the technology and the handling of its fuels.
“The engine is named ‘Dhawan-I’ in honour of eminent Indian rocket scientist Dr Satish Dhawan who played a vital role in development of the Indian Space Programme. Dhawan-I is a 100% 3D Printed cryogenic engine with regenerative cooling,” says Naga Bharath Daka, co-founder & COO, Skyroot Aerospace. Regenerative cooling refers to a configuration where, some or all of the propellant is passed through tubes, channels, or in a jacket around the combustion chamber or nozzle to cool the engine. This is effective because the fuel (and sometimes the oxidizer) are good coolants. The heated propellant is then fed into a special gas generator or injected directly into the main combustion chamber.
Pawan Kumar Chandana, co-founder and CEO, Skyroot Aerospace said, “This is the first among a series of engines being planned with various thrust levels. We have successfully completed many tests to check the fuel flow and structural integrity. We are building a dedicated test facility for hot fire testing of this engine.” He also added,“LNG (with over 90 per cent methane) is clean burning, low cost, highly reusable and safe cryogenic fuel which is also ideal for longer duration deep-space missions carrying satellites or humans – perfectly aligned with the long-term vision of Skyroot.”
Development of Dhawan is being led by V Gnana Gandhi, a former Isro scientist considered among the pioneers of cryogenic technology in the country. He had led a team to Russia in the early 1990s as part of India’s cryogenic programme, and has worked extensively on multiple Isro projects.
In terms of payload capacity, Vikram I is meant to lift 225 kg to 500 km Sun Synchronous Polar Orbit(SSPO) and 315 kg to 45º inclination 500 km Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Vikram II is designed for 410 kg to 500 km SSPO and 520 kg to 45º inclination 500km LEO. In the case of Vikram III, we are looking at 580 kg to 500 km SSPO and 720 kg to 45º inclination 500 km LEO.