Indian aerospace start-up Skyroot Aerospace has developed a prototype cryogenic rocket engine that operates on cryogenic rocket propellants such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquid oxygen (LOX).

This is claimed to be the country’s first cryogenic rocket engine indigenously built that can operate on LNG and LOX.

Named as Dhawan-I after former ISRO chairman Satish Dhawan, the engine will be used as a tech demonstrator, the Times of India reported.

The LNG used by the engine is made of 90% methane and liquefied oxygen.

TOI quoted Skyroot Aerospace founder and former ISRO scientist V Gnana Gandhi as saying: “The technology demonstrator engine is definitely ready and has been fabricated.

“We’ve even developed the ignitor, but there’s a lot of work to do. He explained the engine would be compact and will be installed as an upper stage of the second launch vehicle the firm is designing.

“It would have 60kg of LNG and 120kg LOX. It is being developed for a vehicle that can put about 300kg-400kg into low earth orbit, so it is a small engine. Given the complexities of liquid hydrogen and now proven efficacy of methane, we decided to go with LNG.”

Dhawan-I has cleared fundamental prerequisite tests in order to establish regulation mechanisms for the flow of oxygen and fuel.

The company has also completed structural integrity tests.

The team is now building a test facility for test firing the engine it has developed.

Gandhi added: “It is important to test and see how LNG and LOX behave, and that’s the right procedure. So, we’ll first do that and then check the ignitor. And before doing the full static test — firing of the engine — that will see the engine burn for about 110 seconds, we want to do one for a shorter time, say, 20 seconds or so to see how the ignition happens.”

Last month, Skyroot Aerospace reportedly test-fired an upper-stage rocket engine named Raman, thereby becoming the first Indian private company to test a rocket engine developed in the country.