ISRO to start launch-on-demand service

“First flight of the SSLV is expected in July 2019. It can carry payloads up to 500 kg and can be integrated by 6 persons in 72 hours. Its an innovative vehicle,” ISRO Chairman K Sivan said here at a media interaction.

The Indian Space Research Organisation on Friday announced its plan to introduce a new launch vehicle that can be readied for a flight within 72 hours for carrying a payload of 300-500 kg to a low earth orbit.

While space agency officials maintained that the small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV) would be used to ferry satellites for scientific experiments, strategic analysts told DH that such capabilities could also be utilised to launch surveillance satellites at short notice too.

“First flight of the SSLV is expected in July 2019. It can carry payloads up to 500 kg and can be integrated by 6 persons in 72 hours. Its an innovative vehicle,” ISRO Chairman K Sivan said here at a media interaction.

To be powered by solid fuel, the SSLV would be the smallest and most economical launch vehicle as the launch cost would be one-tenth of a PSLV mission.

“Do you use a truck if you have a carry a small box? Why to use a four-tonnes class vehicle if I have to send a small satellite. It is waste of money. As we have lots of smaller satellites, we will use the SSLV whose first demonstration will happen this year,” Sivan said.

Strategic analysts have welcomed the new rocket. “Its a good beginning for the armed forces to have such a launch-on-demand service. But we need to improve the sensor technology to have all-weather, all-terrain round the clock sensors,” commented Ajay Lele, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Delhi.

“Because of the threats in the region, we do need quick satellite launch facilities so that a lot many more satellites can be launched particularly during a conflict. But we also have to see how quickly we can make these satellites,” said Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a distinguished fellow specialising on nuclear and space issues at the Observer Research Foundation.

The space agency will begin the new year by launching two satellites, the 700 kg Microsat-R for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and KalamSat, developed by students at SpaceKikdz India, Chennai on January 24. As many as 15 spacecraft launches and one technology demonstration mission are planned in 2019.

The technology demonstration mission planned for the middle of 2019 will be the first step for ISRO to have a reusable launch vehicle that can be used again and again to ferry satellites.

During the first demonstration at the Challakere test range, a helicopter would be used to take the space shuttle to an altitude of 3000 metres and dropped. The shuttle will land automatically on the runway. “Its a challenging technology as the shuttle will descend with a steep angle just like a football,” said Sivan.

“During the flight, we will test automatic navigation, steering, the opening of the landing gear, alignment to the runway and actual landing. However, this would the first trial and we are at least 10 years away from realising the reusable launch vehicle technology,” said R Umamaheswaran, Scientific Secretary, ISRO.

Once realised, the RLV technology is expected to significantly cut down satellite launch cost that currently stands at a whopping $15,000 per kg.

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ISRO to start launch-on-demand service

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