ISRO- A Overlook-Part 2

Continuing my blog “ISRO – A overlook- Part1”. We have seen the rise, struggles, successes and failures of ISRO in the previous blog. Now in this blog, let’s know something more and know how India’s Space Program humiliated NASA’s budget.


The ASLV was a five stage solid fuel rocket that aimed to deliver payloads into Geostationary orbit. Unfortunately the first launch ended up being a massive failure. Throughout its lifetime, the ASLV completed 4 launches out of which 3 were failures. The first failure took place in 1987 when the first stage of the rocket failed to ignite after launch. After one year, ISRO tried an attempt again. But this time the launcher ended up disintegrating. The third launch of the ASLV took place in 1992, and similar to the SLV failure, the satellite was released in too low of an orbit and ended up deorbiting and fell back to the earth. The fourth and final launch of the ASLV took place in 1994 and this launch was actually a success.


But given the checkered past of the ASLV, ISRO decided to discontinue the rocket and focus their effort on the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle). The PSLV was designed to deliver payloads into the Sun Synchronous orbit and this rocket is what really prove the capability of ISRO. Ironically, the first flight of the PSLV in 1994 would end up being a failure. However, PSLV would end up having a streak of 50 successful launches. The PSLV is used till this day and it has even put 342 foreign satellite from 36 different countries into various orbits. Until this year, PSLV held the record for deploying the most number of satellites into sun- synchronous orbit in a single launch. PSLV-C37 successfully carried and deployed 104 satellites in sun-synchronous orbits.

Apart from being an extremely reliable launch vehicle, the PSLV is also extremely cost efficient. Each launch is estimated to cost between $18 million and $28 million. We’ll estimate on the higher side and take it as $25 million per launch. The PSLV is capable of delivering 3800 kg into low earth orbit meaning that it costs $6579 per kg. To put into perspective, NASA’s upcoming SLS rocket is expected to be able to put 70 metric tons into orbit, but the price per launch is over $2 billion. This means that the cost per kg is $28,572 which is over four times the cost of PSLV. Now, PSLV isn’t as cost efficient as the Falcon 9 which costs only $2,193 per kg which is only about a third of the cost of PSLV. Nonetheless, the PSLV is way more effivient than options coming out from NASA today and the PSLV was designed way back in the 1980s and 1990s. Anyway, ISRO’s new rocket was the GSLV(Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle). This is actually an updated version of the ASLV and has a payload capacity of 5000 kg. The GSLV had 13 launches out of which 8 were successful and 2 were partial failures and 3 were complete failures.

Let’s discuss more on GSLV in the next part. Stay Safe!!

Categories: Science