AgniKul CEO Srinath Ravichandran on revolutionising space travel

In this episode of the Prime Venture Partners Podcast, Srinath Ravinchandran, Co-founder and CEO of AgniKul, India’s pioneering spacetech startup, joins us to shed light on the evolving landscape and applications of space travel.

AgniKul CEO Srinath Ravichandran on revolutionising space travel

Sunday April 09, 2023,

4 min Read

Srinath Ravichandran is the co-founder and CEO of Agnikul, one of India’s foremost spacetech startups. Founded in 2017, AgniKul aims to make going to space more accessible and affordable. The IIT-Madras-incubated startup launched India’s first private space vehicle launch pad in Sriharikota in November last year.

“We want to do all sorts of solutions to make sure that going from place to place is extremely easy. Whether the places are both in space or one of them is in space. That is really what we want to do,” remarks Ravinchandran.

Looking back: The formative years

As a self-proclaimed “rocket fanboy,” Ravinchandran had always been an aerospace enthusiast. Born into a family of physics teachers, he remembers growing up watching PSLV and GSLV launches. But when the time came to choose a career path, most people in his close circle dissuaded him from pursuing aerospace engineering. It wasn’t considered a particularly lucrative profession back then.

Ravinchandran decided to pursue a bachelor’s in electrical engineering, his second-favourite subject. He even went on to complete a master’s in financial engineering from Columbia University. But the yearning to build something in the domain of space tech never left him.

Ultimately, he took the plunge in 2016 and joined a master’s programme in aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. However, it wasn’t until he moved to Los Angeles that Srinath realised how small-sized satellites struggled to go to space. Regular rockets were just too big for these satellites. And that laid the foundation for AgniKul.

“It's a nice combination of the right place, right time, right technology, everything coming together,” says Ravinchandran.

Making space accessible and affordable

“Our vision is really about making sure that going into space is as easy as going to any other point on earth. It shouldn’t be harder than that,” says Ravinchandran.

To accomplish this goal, the company has developed Agnilet, a one-of-its-kind patented single-piece 3D printed engine designed and manufactured in India. The engine goes inside Agnibaan, the company’s customisable two-stage launch vehicle that can carry transport payloads of up to 100 kg to low Earth orbits (roughly 700 km high).

The launch vehicle is designed for plug-and-play functionality, meaning it can be configured according to every client’s unique needs. The use of technologies like 3D printing and modular configuration makes it more lightweight, nimble and affordable than other solutions available in the market.

Applications of AgniKul's innovation

AgniKul wants to cater to a broad spectrum of use cases, enabling more efficient manufacturing processes, entertainment productions, and data storage.

“It's not about going there, it's about what happens after you go there, a lot more logistics, a lot more. All of the aspects of what is needed to do business on earth are going to be replicated in space,” says Ravinchandran.

For instance, AgniKul's launch vehicles can be valuable for pharma companies that want to build manufacturing facilities at sub-zero temperatures in space. Similarly, they can be used to build physical data storage centers in space. The possibilities are endless.

“People are suddenly figuring out that space offers you something that is close to impossible to create for prolonged periods of time on Earth. And that is something that we should tap into,” concludes Ravinchandran.

You can listen to the full episode here

Time stamps

03:30 - How AgniKul is making going to space easy

10:30 - Can rockets also shrink?

20:00 - How ISRO works with Indian spacetech startups

26:30 - Who will be the new customers?

35:00 - Think of space as a platform

42:00 - Many exciting opportunities in spacetech

47:00 - India is a space-faring nation today

Edited by Swetha Kannan

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)