THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The first of Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) ‘baby rockets’ in the making is likely to take to the skies in the first half of 2019, top officials of ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) said.Though a formal approval for the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) project is still awaited, VSSC here at Thumba — ISRO’s nodal agency for launch vehicles — has already started work on it, VSSC director K Sivan said. With the global trend of satellites getting more compact, ISRO officials believe there is space for a smaller rocket that caters exclusively to small-size satellites.
On the launchpad, the SSLV will stand half as tall as a regular Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and weigh in the neighbourhood of 100 tonnes, Sivan said. “A PSLV weighs over 300 tonnes. The SSLV’s weight would be around 100 tonnes and its height, 20-25 metres,” he said. The PSLV, often dubbed the reliable workhorse of the ISRO, stands 44 metres tall in comparison.
The SSLV will place small satellites in the Low Earth Orbit — orbits with altitudes up to 2,000 km.
“We hope to have the first flight of the SSLV in the first half of 2019. Across the globe, satellites are ‘shrinking’. Now, small satellites go aboard the PSLV or GSLV as ‘piggyback’ payloads alongside bigger ones,” Sivan said.
Financially, smaller can also mean smarter in the launch vehicle business. The SSLV is designed to be attractive to global customers who look to ISRO to launch their satellites.The mission cost will be roughly one-tenth that of a PSLV mission.ISRO is planning to have the SSLV flying fully on solid fuel, but the technicalities have to be worked out, Sivan said.If things go as planned, the SSLV will be ISRO’s smallest launch vehicle. At the other end of the spectrum, the space agency plans to have heavy-lift variants that will eventually replace the current generation of GSLVs.
PSLV C-40 launch postponed until January 12
ISRO has made a slight change in the flight schedule of the PSLV C-40, which will carry 31 satellites, including a Cartosat series payload. The C-40 will lift off on January 12 instead of the originally announced January 10. The reason given is that one of the smaller Indian payloads is not ready yet. According to ISRO sources, the rocket will lift off from Sriharikota at 9.28 am. The C-40 mission is a keenly awaited one as it is the first after the failed PSLV C-39 mission last August, which had sent the ISRO top brass into a tizzy.