India’s Agnikul raises $27 mln more ahead of first rocket launch

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Bengaluru (Reuters) – Indian space startup Agnikul Cosmos said on Tuesday it had raised 2 billion rupees ($26.7 million) in additional funds ahead of its first rocket launch, as private space firms benefit from the successful landing of an Indian spacecraft on the moon.

Chennai-based Agnikul, whose name is derived from the Hindi and sanskrit word for fire, plans to launch a sub orbital rocket from its own launch pad within the next two months, which would be India’s second private launch after Skyroot’s Vikram-S.

It has so far raised a total of $40 million, and plans to use the latest funding to prepare for commercial launches, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to privatise the space sector and open it to foreign investment to fulfill India’s ambition of increasing its share of the global launch market five-fold within the next decade.

In August, India beat Russia to become the first country to successfully land on the unexplored south pole of the moon, a feat Agnikul CEO co-founder and CEO Srinath Ravichandran said helped his startup’s funding prospects.

“Because of Chandrayaan-3, there is a lot of credibility in the system,” Ravichandran said, referring to the name of the moon lander. He declined to say how much the company was worth.

India currently accounts for just 2% of the $400 billion global commercial space market, a share the government has said it wants to expand to $40 billion by 2040.

To encourage business, Agnikul aims to lower the cost of launches to “a fraction of our competitors” and plans to offer a launch platform where pricing is not dependent on the mass of payload, Ravichandran said.

Agnikul has started integrating Agnibaan, its customizable, 2-stage launch vehicle which can take up to 300 kg (about 660 lb) of payload to orbits around 700 km (435 miles), it said.

Founded in 2017, the company runs India’s first private launchpad and mission control centre. The Indian space agency, ISRO, operates all other launchpads in India.

“(Agnikul’s) mission underscores the spirit of collaboration amongst the Indian Space Research Organization, space regulators and entrepreneurs in driving advancements within India’s vibrant space-tech ecosystem,” said Arun Kumar, managing partner at Celesta Capital, which paid into the latest funding round.

Other investors include Rocketship.vc, Artha Venture Fund, Artha Select Fund and Mayfield India.

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