ISRO's Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) is derived from its work-horse PSLV

In April this year, ISRO had launched 21 satellites for Spaceflight in its PSLV C-45 mission

NEW DELHI: Even before its birth, Indian Space Research Organisation's Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) or mini-PSLV has been booked by domestic and foreign satellite customers.

The mini launcher, whose maiden test flight is due later this year, can be assembled in just 3-5 days as compared to 30-40 days for a normal-size rocket and made in just one-tenth the cost of a PSLV, which is worth around Rs 150 crore.

Spaceflight, the world's leading ride share company that provides satellite launch service, has announced that it has booked SSLV-D2, the second demonstration flight considered to be the first commercial launch of ISRO's mini rocket, for carrying an American payload. "Spaceflight has already sold out the entire manifest for this secured SSLV-D2 launch with spacecraft from an undisclosed US-based satellite constellation customer," its release said.

ISRO chairman K Sivan told TOI, "The maiden demonstration flight of SSLV, which was earlier scheduled in July-August, will now happen after Chandrayaan-2 landing on Moon scheduled for September 7 as our entire focus is on the moon mission." He said the first test flight "will carry two small defence satellites of 120 kg weight each". SSLV weighs just 110 tonnes, which is 1/10th the mass of a PSLV rocket. It can carry a payload of up to 500 kg to the low earth orbit and 300 kg to the sun synchronous orbit, making it ideal for launching small satellites.

Curt Blake, CEO and president of Spaceflight, said, "We’re very excited to work with New Space India Ltd (newly formed ISRO's commercial arm) to offer customers the option to launch from SSLV, hence our purchase of its first available launch. The SSLV is the much-needed solution to fill the gap in the portfolio of small launch vehicles. SSLV is perfectly suited for launching multiple micro-satellites at a time and supports multiple orbital drop-offs.”

Spaceflight has executed nine missions with ISRO, sending over 100 spacecraft to orbits aboard its launch vehicles. In April this year, ISRO had launched 21 satellites for Spaceflight in its PSLV C-45 mission.

NSIL director D Radhakrishnan said, “We’re taking advantage of the growth in the small satellite market to deliver more launch options with the mini-launcher, and look forward to many more launches with Spaceflight."

Through NSIL, ISRO also plans to transfer the SSLV technology to the industry at a fee. "Once private companies start the mass production of SSLVs, they will require the service of ISRO for launching these mini rockets. ISRO will then charge them for providing the launch service," Sivan told TOI.

Till April 1, ISRO's workhorse PSLV has launched 297 international customer satellites, 46 national satellites, 10 satellites built by students and also holds the world record of launching 104 satellites in one go on February 15, 2017.