The small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV), a new rocket developed by the Indian Space Research Organization, made its debut with great fanfare, but disappointment soon followed. This was due to the lost and unsuccessful attempt to deploy the satellites the rocket was carrying into the desired orbits. Breaking with history of retreat and quiet following a failed mission, ISRO swiftly disclosed the reasons why the satellites were lost. The SSLV rocket’s three stages, which used solid propellants, operated as predicted and separated without incident, raising the subsequent stages along the predetermined trajectory.However, a sensor malfunctioned in the terminal stage, causing the satellites to be launched into an elliptical orbit rather than the intended 356 km low-Earth orbit. Similar to how a circle’s radius defines a circle, an elliptical orbit is defined by its long and short axes. The obtained elliptical orbit had a short axis and only raised the satellites 76 km above the surface of the planet.At this altitude, air resistance would impede the satellite’s movement, and without a significant propulsion, the item would lose height and plummet back to the ground, maybe catching fire. In any event, it would be unavoidably lost to the control room. The two satellites being carried by the SSLV experienced this.The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle is the current workhorse rocket of ISRO, and the SSLV has been promoted to replace it (PSLV). It is smaller than the PSLV, which has been used to launch satellites of a variety of weights, measuring just two metres in diameter and 35 metres in height. Smaller satellites can be launched using the SSLV instead of the PSLV, which is rather excessive for those with weights up to 500 kilogrammes. Compared to the liquid propellant stages of the PSLV, the SSLV employs solid propellants, which are more practical and affordable.Due to the SSLV’s ability to launch many satellites and its need for little launch infrastructure, satellites may be launched whenever they are needed. It is particularly appealing for commercial earth observation and communication because of all these qualities. Separating the ranges of mass being carried makes sense from a strategic perspective as well. This time, however, success was not to be, as the 8 kilogramme nano satellite AzaadiSAT and the 135 kg Earth Observation Satellite EOS-02 were both lost.The direct contact of S. Somanath, Chairperson of ISRO, and the timely release of the initial analysis for the benefit of all parties involved were the standout aspects of this occurrence. It is common knowledge that other space agencies invest far more on testing than India does. India’s strategy may eventually incur a cost, although appearing to be affordable. Success under such conditions is astonishing, and failure teaches a costly lesson.
By Subhechcha Ganguly