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Hyderabad rocket boys take startup for ‘Prarambh’ on space with first launch onNov 18


Ex-ISRO engineers Naga Bharath Daka and Pawan Kumar Chandana believe space, which was accessed by only a few till now, will sometime soon become as easily accessible as a cab.n the late 2017s, looking at the turn of events in the space technology sector and the impact of private players the world over, engineers Naga Bharath Daka and Pawan Kumar Chandana weighed the possibility of a vast opportunity in the event of the private sector playing a role. Daka quit his ISRO job in 2015 and his ex-colleague Chandana, who too shared the same views about the opportunities, followed suit in 2018 to become entrepreneurs.



Four years later, on November 8, a tweet from their startup read, “Thrilled to announce #Prarambh, our maiden launch mission, also the first for the Indian private space sector, with launch window between 12-16 Nov ’22. Thanks to Chairman @isro for unveiling our mission patch and @INSPACeIND for all the support. Stay tuned #OpeningSpaceForAll


It was a giant leap of faith, but with conviction,” says Daka, now 33, and COO and co-founder of Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace. Chandana, 32, the CEO, adds that it was more of a chicken-and-egg story at the time while they watched developments in the US and Europe. “Without players, there cannot be a policy and without policy, there cannot be players. We thought we will start and when more like us join in the journey and there is a noise, the government will take note and offer support,” he tells indianexpress.com over the phone in the middle of a hectic launch campaign from ISRO’ Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. Fortunately for them, that is what happened in 2020 when India’s space sector was opened up to private players. The duo, who consider ISRO founder Vikram Sarabhai as their role model, have named their rockets “Vikram series”. Owing to inconvenient weather, the launch window was later changed to November 15-19 and the liftoff of Vikram-S, a suborbital rocket, is most likely to take place on November 18, according to Skyroot.


Hailing from Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, Chandana, whose father worked as a civil engineer in the Vizag port, says there is a crazy mix of nervousness and excitement about having reached this point. Back in 2018, when he told his family about his decision to quit the ISRO job to become an entrepreneur, the family took it well, with the same crazy mix of nervousness and excitement. “My father was an entrepreneur before he took up a government job and I was quitting my government job to become an entrepreneur. Even though there was a bit of discontent, they were very excited as I took the bold decision and started the journey,” says Chandana, who graduated from IIT Kharagpur and landed the ISRO job through campus placements.


Daka, who grew up in Hyderabad and graduated from IIT Madras, says, “Pawan and I had been colleagues at ISRO since 2012. Being space enthusiasts, it was a big opportunity to work for ISRO. We got to work on some of the prestigious projects including ‘Bahubali’ GSLV Mark III. It was a great learning experience.”


“I was so fascinated in my childhood that humans could build a machine that can go to space. I used to follow news of rocket launches and this fascination grew 100 times while working at ISRO,” Chandana adds.



Skyroot’s new statement is “open space for all” and Chandana believes space, which was accessed by only a few till now, will sometime soon become as easily accessible as a cab. “That is our aspiration. It will become possible when you keep launching regularly instead of one or two a year. One launch a week and you succeed each time, it then becomes more like a cab to space. Book a rocket as and when the demand arises,” he says.




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