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PSLV: Powering through failures with its many successes

01 Sep 2017 | By Anupama Vijayakumar

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), through its reliable cost-effective launches, has played a key role in ISRO's successes over the past two decades.

So far, the PSLV has had 39 successes to its credit and merely 2 failures. It suffered its first failure in 20 years yesterday, when it failed to launch IRNSS-1H.

Let's know more about its successes and its recent failure!

In context: PSLV: ISRO's tireless space workhorse

31 Aug 2017Mission to launch ISRO's navigation satellite IRNSS-1H fails

On August 31, ISRO launched its navigation satellite, IRNSS-1H at 7 pm from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.

However, the mission was unsuccessful due to a heat shield failure.

The satellite was launched by ISRO's star launch vehicle PSLV-C39, and was expected to enhance India's own GPS-like system called NavIC.

IRNSS-1H was India's first satellite built with active private sector collaboration.

01 Sep 2017PSLV: Powering through failures with its many successes

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What?PSLV: ISRO's workhorse

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle was developed in the early 1990s at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center in Kerala to launch objects into a polar orbit.

With 41 successful launches to its credit, PSLV boasts of a successful record.

The 4-stage 320 tonne craft has also launched 209 foreign satellites since 1999. Between 2013-15, these foreign satellite launches fetched ISRO $101 million.

PSLV: Failed launches explained

Prior to its unexpected failure in the IRNSS-1H launch, the PSLV last experienced disappointment during its first launch attempt in 1993. Its failure was attributed to a technical glitch between the second and third stages. It also experienced a partial failure during a 1997 launch.

SuccessesThe many feathers in PSLV's cap

PSLV has successfully carried India's high-prestige payloads including its first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-I (2008), the Mars Orbiter Mission (2014) and Astrosat (2015), India's first space observatory.

It launched a record number of 104 satellites in one go in February 2017.

PSLV further met with a remarkable success in June 2017, when it launched 30 nano-satellites along with military surveillance satellite, Cartosat-2.

PSLV: The world's cheapest launch vehicle

Marketed as the world's cheapest launch vehicle, PSLV has seen a boost in orders through the past decade, especially after the Mars-orbiter Mission. Compared to European Union's Ariane and SpaceX's Falcon 9, PSLV launches cost far less.
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Future missionsWhat next?

ISRO is counting on PSLV to realize two major projects: Chandrayaan-2 and the second Mars mission.

ISRO and its commercial arm Antrix Corp. are also planning to make PSLV launches commercially attractive, along with working towards increasing the frequency of launches.

ISRO will also be banking on PSLV's capability to launch multiple satellites in one go, to bring hi-speed internet services to India.