This article provides an overview of the diverse launch vehicles employed by the Indian Space Research Organization. It delves into the historical, operational, and future launchers, shedding light on their contributions to space exploration. Gaining knowledge about ISRO’s functioning and its missions is essential, given its pivotal role as India’s primary space agency. For more in-depth information, one can explore the official ISRO website, a treasure trove of valuable insights into India’s remarkable achievements in space research.
ISRO: India’s Primary Space Agency Leading the Way in Space Research
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) stands at the forefront of India’s space exploration endeavors. With its headquarters located in Bangalore, ISRO operates directly under the supervision of the Prime Minister, making it a vital institution in the nation’s scientific landscape.
Breakthroughs in Space Research: Unveiling New Horizons
ISRO has achieved numerous significant breakthroughs in the field of space research, cementing its reputation as a pioneering organization. ISRO continues to push the boundaries of space exploration, from cutting-edge technology to groundbreaking missions.
Launchers or Launch Vehicles: Gateway to the Stars
Launchers or launch vehicles play a crucial role in carrying spacecraft into space. ISRO utilizes two operational launchers: the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).
List of ISRO Launchers: Unlocking the Potential of Space
ISRO’s launchers can be categorized into historical, operational, and future launchers, each contributing to the organization’s rich legacy and promising future.
Historic Launchers: Pioneers of Indian Space Exploration
- SLV – Satellite Launch Vehicle-3 (SLV-3) marked India’s first foray into satellite launch vehicles. This all-solid, four-stage vehicle weighing 17 tons and standing at a height of 22m could place 40 kg class payloads in Low Earth Orbit. SLV-3 utilized an open-loop guidance system with a stored pitch program to navigate along a predetermined trajectory. Its success paved the way for advanced projects like the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV), Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).
- ASLV – The Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) Program aimed to enhance payload capacity to 150 kg, triple that of SLV-3, for Low Earth Orbits (LEO). ASLV served as an economical intermediate vehicle, demonstrating and validating critical technologies required for future launch vehicles. These technologies included strap-on technology, inertial navigation, bulbous heat shield, vertical integration, and closed-loop guidance.
Operational Launchers: Current Frontiers of Indian Space Exploration
- PSLV – Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) stands as India’s third-generation launch vehicle and the first to incorporate liquid stages. Notably, PSLV successfully launched two spacecraft: Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and the Mars Orbiter Spacecraft in 2013, solidifying India’s position in the global space community.
- GSLV – Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark II (GSLV Mk II), the largest launch vehicle developed by India, remains in active operation. This fourth-generation launch vehicle comprises three stages with four liquid strap-ons. Its third stage, the indigenously developed Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS), has been flight-proven, further enhancing GSLV Mk II’s capabilities.
- GSLV Mk III – GSLV Mk III, the chosen launcher for the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, represents a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle developed by ISRO. It boasts two solid strap-ons, a core liquid booster, and a cryogenic upper stage. Designed to carry 4-ton class satellites into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) or approximately 10 tons to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), GSLV Mk III showcases twice the capacity of its predecessor, GSLV Mk II.
Sounding Rockets: Exploring Earth’s Atmosphere and Beyond
Sounding rockets, single- or two-stage solid propellant rockets, are essential for probing the upper atmospheric regions and conducting space research. Additionally, these rockets provide cost-effective platforms for testing prototypes of components and subsystems intended for use in launch vehicles and satellites. The establishment of the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in 1963 near the magnetic equator significantly expanded the scope of aeronomy and atmospheric sciences in India.
Future Launchers: Paving the Way for Advancements
- RLV-TD – Reusable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) represents one of ISRO’s most technologically challenging endeavors, focusing on the development of essential technologies for fully reusable launch vehicles. The winged RLV-TD serves as a flying test bed for evaluating various technologies, including hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, and powered cruise flight. It will eventually evolve into the first stage of India’s reusable two-stage orbital launch vehicle, facilitating low-cost access to space.
- Scramjet Engine-TD – On August 28th, 2016, ISRO successfully conducted the first experimental mission of the Scramjet Engine, a critical step toward realizing an Air Breathing Propulsion System. The flight demonstrated key technologies such as the ignition of air-breathing engines at supersonic speed, sustaining the flame at supersonic speed, air intake mechanisms, and fuel injection systems. The Scramjet engines were tested under supersonic conditions using ISRO’s Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV), an advanced-sounding rocket with solid rocket boosters.