ISRO's SSLV (Small Satellite Launch Vehicle) is a planned small class launch vehicle which would serve the market below the PSLV family of LVs. ISRO has started working on the idea of building this small rocket keeping in mind the emerging market of micro or nano satellites. It could also tremendously cut the launch cost that customers would have to pay. Which is what all space agencies aim at: low-cost access to space, as they call it.

The SSLV consists of three solid fuel stages and a bi-propellant RCS/Velocity trimming module. It has a principal diameter of 2 m and a length of 34 m with a lift-off mass of ~116 t.

ISRO has designed the vehicle using the rocket technology that it already has. Its design will enable a handful of engineers to assemble it within a week. And the launcher should be able to put satellites of up to 500-600 kg in orbits close to the Earth. The development cost would be kept low at a few crore as the new launcher’s requirement of advanced electronics is considerably lower.

Today, it takes 300-plus engineers and about 40 days to assemble a PSLV. A small launcher that can be got up perhaps in three days by a small team would make a big difference in the market as well as to the launch provider. For one, satellite operators need not wait one or two years to launch their spacecraft. In shared space rides, satellites going on the same rocket must have compatible sizes and shapes. The thinking, he said, is why waste a big vehicle for a small job.

Global space industry consulting firm Euroconsult estimated that during the period 2017-2026 the launch market for nano and small satellite would touch a whopping $30 billion — up from $8.9 billion in the last decade.

The vehicle can launch dedicated payloads or multiple satellites into low earth orbit or sun-synchronous orbit. The payload will be 300 kg to Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO) and 500 kg to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

The proposed small launch vehicle is likely to be ready for launch probably by 2018-end or early-2019.

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