ISRO's PSLV-C51 carrying Amazonia-1 and 18 other satellites lifts off from Sriharikota

New Delhi: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will conduct four launches over the next five months, including the maiden flight of its new small satellite launch vehicle. The much-awaited first uncrewed flight under the Gaganyaan mission, however, is no longer on the cards, the government told the Lok Sabha.

The space agency had to reassess the timelines for all its missions due to the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Prior to that, India was to conduct the first uncrewed flight under the Gaganyaan mission by December 2021.

The four upcoming launches include three using India’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLV), according to a reply in the Lok Sabha. All the four missions will carry on board earth observation satellites, which are used for monitoring agricultural activities and natural disasters among others.

So far, there has only been one launch this year in February when PSLV C51 carried the Brazilian Earth Observation Satellite Amazonia-1 to space in a commercial launch. The vehicle also carried 18 co-passengers – 13 satellites from the US, one from the defence research and development organisation (DRDO), a three-satellite combination from a university consortium, and an experimental nano-satellite developed by students.

HT had previously reported that the launch of EOS-3 is likely by mid-August. “The dates will be confirmed closer to the launch,” said an official from the space agency.

The first development flight of the small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV) is likely to happen in the last quarter of the year. ISRO inducts a launch vehicle in its operation fleet after two successful development flights. The SSLV, which was mainly developed for commercial launch of small satellites, costs only R 30 crore as compared to Rs120 crore for PSLV. It can be assembled by a team of six within seven days in comparison to a team of 600 that takes a couple of months to assemble a PSLV.

Ajay Lele, a senior fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, had earlier said that there was a need to carry out the commercial missions such as small satellite launch vehicle demonstration as soon as possible as customer satellites already purchased slots for launch.

“The scientific missions can wait for some time. If India does not provide launch services there is a likelihood that they might go to other launch providers,” he said.