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Rocket Launch Thrusts India Deeper Into Space Exploration Race

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(Bloomberg) — India launched its first rocket developed by a startup into space on Friday, with the aim of testing the company’s technology that will be used to design three orbital vehicles. 

The Vikram-S rocket, developed by Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace, took off at 11:30 a.m. local time from Sriharikota, an island near Chennai in southeastern India. The rocket reached an altitude of 89.5 kilometers (56 miles) and all systems worked as planned, Pawan Goenka, head of an industry space body said.

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“It’s a major step forward to India developing its own space ecosystem and emerging as a front-line nation in space,” Space Minister Jitendra Singh said.

Built in just two years, the sub-orbital validated the pressure, temperature and vibration in Skyroot’s orbital vehicles, with the first of the series, Vikram I, scheduled to launch next year. It carried a payload from two Indian aerospace startups and a non-profit space research laboratory in Armenia. 

Farming out missions to private companies could help India’s push into space exploration. The country plans a moon landing by July after its previous attempt in 2019 failed. India will launch a rover to analyze crust samples for signs of water and helium-3. The isotope is limited on Earth, but so abundant on the moon that it could meet global energy demands for 250 years if harnessed.

India is also working on its $1.4 billion Gaganyaan mission, the country’s first manned space exploration.

Skyroot, founded by former Indian Space Research Organisation scientists, has attracted investment worth 5 billion rupees ($61 million) from backers including Greenko Group founders and Sherpalo Ventures, started by Ram Shriram, a founding board member of Google.  



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