- India’s space programme received a major boost recently when the ISRO’s Small Satellite Vehicle (SSLV-D2) lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.
- SSLV is the new small satellite launch vehicle developed by ISRO to cater the launch of small satellites up to 500 kg to Low Earth Orbits.
- It is configured with three solid stages and a liquid propulsion-based Velocity Trimming Module (VTM) which helps achieve desired velocity for the insertion of the satellites into the intended orbit.
- SSLV is capable of launching Mini, Micro, or Nanosatellites (10 to 500 kg mass) to a 500 km orbit.
- It provides low-cost access to Space, offers low turn-around time, facilitates flexibility in accommodating multiple satellites and demands minimal launch infrastructure.
- The vehicle’s first development flight of SSLV-D1 that took place last August after repeated delays due to the pandemic, failed to place the satellites in precise orbit. SSLV-D2 implemented the recommendations made by the expert committee that analyzed the shortcomings of SSLV-D1 flight.
Significance of SSLV
- SSLV-D2 launch aims to commercialize the small satellite launches through industry on demand basis. It caters to the increasing global need of launching small satellites into Space.
- Small satellites have utility in fields as diverse as education, defense, earth sciences, emergency-related data services and smart power grids.
- With its PSLV (polar satellite launch vehicle), ISRO carved a niche for itself in the traditional launch segment. But in its 44-year history, the space research agency has averaged less than five launches a year.
- Today’s data-driven world requires more frequent rocket launches. Private players, especially in China and the US, are stepping up to this challenge.
- Elon Musk’s SpaceX, for instance, launched an orbital mission once every six days last year. Such rockets can be assembled, on-demand, at a fraction of the cost of conventional satellites in three to four days — the turnaround time for the PSLV, in contrast, is at least a month.
Involvement of Private Players
- The ISRO plans to transfer the SSLV technology to private players. In 2020, the government set up the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) to enhance the diffusion of ISRO’s research.
- However, the country has a long way to go to become a significant player in the small satellite-driven space economy — its share is about 2 per cent.
- The success of such players in the US owes much to the enabling partnerships forged with NASA. India’s premier space research agency would do well to emulate its American counterpart.