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ISRO plans to develop light-lift rocket to launch small satellites into orbit

PSLV-C38 / Cartosat-2 on the First Launch Pad

An archive photo of a PSLV-XL (C38) on the launch pad. Photo Credit: ISRO

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) eyes the development of a new light-lift booster dedicated to launching smaller payloads into space.

According to ISRO, the new rocket will have four stages and will weigh around 100 metric tons. The booster would be capable of launching satellites weighing up to 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms).

India aims to develop such a light-lift rocket with the aim of being more competitive in the launch services market. By employing new booster, ISRO hopes to tap more contracts to send small satellites into space.

“Owing to advancement in technology, the mass of satellites is coming down – including that of communication satellites. A lot of start-ups are building small satellites and they would like to put one in orbit at a lower cost,” K. Sivan, Director of ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) told IANS.

Currently, ISRO utilizes its flagship Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) to launch payloads for foreign customers. However, although PSLV is used for a variety of space launches, even its lightest variant – known as PSLV-CA and weighing around 230 metric tons – is unsuitable for launching small spacecraft. In practice, smaller payloads are launched as piggy-backs every time ISRO lifts off bigger satellites atop PSLV rockets.

The proposed new light-lift launcher could also shorten the time needed to fully prepare an orbital mission. Given that it usually takes Indian engineers at least one month to fully assemble one PSLV launch vehicle, the new booster is being designed to be easily assembled in just three days.

So far, India has completed a preliminary design and a feasibility study for the new rocket. According to Sivan, the first such booster would be ready in two years once the project gets the necessary approvals.



Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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