December 11 will be a historic day for the Indian space programme when the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) ‘workhorse’, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), roars into the sky carrying satellites, in what will be its fiftieth launch.
In the last 26 years, the launch vehicle has proven its capability repeatedly, so much so that international clients have been queuing up to put their smaller satellites into orbit using the PSLV. This is not surprising, given that a PSLV trip is far more affordable than those on launch vehicles of other countries.
Indeed, in terms of numbers, if not in size, ISRO’s launch vehicles has carried more foreign satellites. Between 1994 and 2019, PSLV launched 50 Indian satellites and 222 foreign satellites for over 70 international customers from 20 countries. It also successfully launched two spacecraft – Chandrayaan-1 in 2008, which made its way to the moon and the Mars Orbiter in 2013, which travelled to Mars.
PSLV, which costs nearly ₹200 crore, is a third-generation launch vehicle for ISRO. It is the first Indian launch vehicle to be equipped with liquid stages. PSLV has three variants: PSLV-Core alone (PSLV-CA) without the solid strap-on motors; a PSLV with six solid strap-on boosters; and PSLV-XL, the top model, with six extended solid strap-on boosters.
Not an auspicious beginning ::
PSLV’s long journey began with a disaster. On September 20, 1993, PSLV-D1, the first such rocket, launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, failed to place the IRS-1E satellite into orbit. Thereafter it proved its credentials, with 39 consecutively successful missions till June 2017.
There was another disappointment on August 31, 2017, with the unsuccessful launch of the PSLV-C39. This was just a blip, though, and the PSLV continued to place satellites into orbit. The most recent launch was on November 27, when the PSLV-C47 successfully launched Cartosat-3 and 13 commercial nano-satellites after lift-off from the second launchpad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
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PSLV-C46 was the 74th launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota range (SDSC SHAR). This was the 21st flight of the PSLV in the 'XL' configuration (with six solid strap-on motors). About 17 minutes and 38 seconds after lift-off, Cartosat-3 was injected into an orbit of 509 km at an inclination of 97.5 degrees to the equator.
Cartosat-3 satellite is a third-generation agile advanced satellite with high-resolution imaging capability. The 13 commercial nano-satellites from the US were also successfully injected into their designated orbit. These satellites were launched under commercial arrangements with NewSpace India Limited, the commercial arm of ISRO.