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ISRO launches maiden SSLV flight, but fails to deploy satellites in orbitIndian

ISRO is analyzing the data from the maiden SSLV flight regarding the deployment of the two satellites that were part of the rocket’s payload (PTI)Premium
ISRO is analyzing the data from the maiden SSLV flight regarding the deployment of the two satellites that were part of the rocket’s payload (PTI)

  • The Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) took off, with two small satellites, in a low-Earth orbit above the equator 
  • The SSLV is India’s official foray into the commercial small satellite launch market around the world

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New Delhi: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced a successful first flight of its new satellite launcher, the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV). Launched from the first launchpad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, the SSLV-D1 took off at 9:18 am on Sunday, deploying two small satellites in a low-Earth orbit (LEO) of about 365km above the equator.

However, while the deployment of its payload was said to be a success, S Somanath, chairman of ISRO, said after the launch that the mission experienced “some data loss" at the terminal or final stage of the rocket. ISRO is analyzing the data from the maiden SSLV flight regarding the deployment of the two satellites that were part of the rocket’s payload, and an update on the same is expected in the coming hours.

The SSLV-D1 mission’s payload included the Indian government’s experimental remote sensing satellite, the Earth Observation Satellite (EOS)-02, and a student satellite, called AzaadiSAT. The latter was built as part of a government outreach program, and is said to include contributions from 75 female students from across the country to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers among women.

EOS-02, meanwhile, will reside in its LEO where it was deployed, and relay ground imagery data through its high resolution remote sensing imaging equipment — to be used for disaster management, forestry, hydrology, agriculture and other tasks.

The SSLV is India’s official foray into the commercial small satellite launch market around the world. While ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has so far catered to most of India’s space launches so far, the SSLV is expected to become the frequent launch vehicle of choice. According to ex-ISRO chairman K Sivan, the small rocket takes 72 hours to be assembled — in comparison to the 70-day assembly window that was required for the PSLV.

The rocket is expected to be operated by New Space India Limited (NSIL), India’s commercial space operations arm, and compete with the likes of US-based private space companies such as SpaceX and Rocket Lab to make frequent launches. Due to PSLV’s long turnaround time, the rocket was not ideal for scaling up satellite launch operations. The SSLV is expected to help resolve this, and come closer to the scale that has been achieved by SpaceX.

For reference, SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rocket has conducted a total of 36 launches this year alone — including its Crew Dragon missions that it undertook for USA’s central space agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In comparison, ISRO has undertaken two PSLV launches this year so far.

Last month, union minister of state for science and technology, Jitendra Singh, told the Parliament that ISRO has so far undertaken 345 commercial satellite launches for vendors from across 34 countries — a figure that the SSLV is expected to help boost.

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