Students who designed ISRO’s AzadiSAT arrive to watch the launch of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle SSLV-D2 carrying EOS-07, Janus-1 and AzaadiSAT-2 satellites, at Satish Dhawan Space Station in Sriharikota, on Friday. (PTI)
SSLV is India’s next generation rocket built for ‘ready-to-launch’ missions, and caters to the growing market of small satellites. On Friday, it undertook its second flight into space and placed all three satellites into their intended orbits
“India now has a new launch vehicle,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief S Somanath beamed with pride, as he made the announcement minutes after the SSLV–D2 mission completed its journey into space on Friday morning.
It has taken almost four years for Indian scientists to build the 34 m-tall Small Satellite Launch Vehicle – (SSLV) which accurately placed all three satellite payloads into the low earth orbit on Friday. This was the rocket’s second test mission after the maiden flight in August last year failed.
“We had a narrow miss in placing the satellite in its intended orbit during its maiden flight due to a shortfall in velocity. But we analysed the problem, identified the corrective action and implemented it at a very fast pace. The orbit that it achieved today is exceedingly good. This shows the new model of vehicle navigation system is doing well,” said the ISRO chief post the launch.
The joy was evident on the faces of scientists who had to jump into the fast-track mode to ready the rocket for its second flight after its failure. In a short period of five months, they built five new pieces of hardware, designed a new suppression system, and made modifications to the existing navigation and guidance keys. The entire system underwent a rigorous review at several stages, as the team carried out tests after tests.
EYE ON COMMERCIAL MISSIONS
SSLV is now the sixth launch vehicle to be indigenously developed by ISRO. It is India’s response to the booming space market. What sets it apart from the GSLVs and PSLVs is that it is remarkably low-cost, easy to assemble and can be readied for launch of small satellites within days of the final take-off.
SSLV joins the new fleet of rockets that the country is readying to become the new destination for launch of commercial small satellites which are less than 500 kg.
Elated with the feat, Pawan Chandana, co-founder of space-start up Skyroot, which had built India’s first private space rocket Vikram-S, says the country needs more launch vehicles to meet the growing commercial requirements. “SSLV has given a ‘rocketing’ start to 2023. Almost 30,000 new satellites will be launched in the next ten years and 80% of them will be small. So, the requirements are huge and India definitely has to scale up its launch capabilities,” he told News18.
According to experts, the mission marks a major milestone for India’s commercial space endeavours. “So far, we have mostly relied on the PSLV for Indian launches, but now we have a much-smaller rocket that will be exclusively available for commercial launches,” says Dr Ajey Lele from Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. “Now we must look at building more launch sites.”
FULFILLING DREAMS THROUGH AZAADISAT-2
Apart from millions of Indians who watched the rocket soar into space on Friday, there were hundreds of girl students who also remained glued to their TV sets, praying for the mission to be successful. One of the satellites on board – AzaadiSAT-2 carried the dreams of about 750 girls from different schools who had built it with help from Hyderabad-based start-up Space Kidz India.
“They all were very excited, and surprisingly did not have an iota of doubt over the mission success this time,” Space Kidz India founder-CEO Srimathy Kesan tells News18 over a call from Sriharikota.
The entire team has overcome several challenges over the last six months to build the payload a second time. There was a funds crunch, long delays in manufacturing of the scientific equipment, and students’ exams. The payload AzaadiSAT-2 also underwent a few changes to give it extra stability once it is injected into space. “The satellite is has already started communicating,” Dr Kesan screams with joy.
Within 15 minutes of its launch from Sriharikota on Friday morning, the 34-m tall rocket had accurately placed all the three satellites into their intended orbits. Apart from AzaadiSAT2, it also carried an earth observation satellite EO2-07 and Janus-1. SSLV will now return to launch pad for its third mission soon, confirmed ISRO.
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