Space: The Little Launcher That Just Gets It Done


July 16, 2010:  Recently, for the 17th time, India's PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) went up. It was a successful launch, as have been 88 percent of the times PSLV has been used. This time, five satellites were put into orbit. This is typical of PSLV launches, which usually put several satellites into orbit at once, including microsatellites. Two years ago, on the 9th PSLV launch, ten satellites went into orbit at once. These included one 682 kg/1500 pound photo satellite, an 83 kg/183 pound research satellite, and eight 6.4 kg/14 pound (on average) nano-sats (for various research projects).

The 230 ton PSLV launcher only cost $18 million. PSLV is smaller than launchers used by most other nations with space programs. Max payload for low orbit is 3.2 tons, while for the highest (GTO) orbit it is one ton. Most PSLV launches are for low orbit birds. The mini-and nano satellites are becoming increasingly important because of advances in several technologies (electronics, solar panels, batteries), allowing very small, and very cheap, satellites to be useful.



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