Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle

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Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle
PSLV-CA 1.jpg
PSLV-C8 (CA Variant) carrying the AGILE x-ray and γ-ray astronomical satellite of the Italian Space Agency lifting off from Sriharikota
Function Medium lift launch system
Manufacturer ISRO
Country of origin India
Cost per launch PSLV-CA ₹90 crore($15M)[1]
Height 44 metres (144 ft)
Diameter 2.8 metres (9 ft 2 in)
Mass PSLV: 295,000 kg (650,000 lb)
PSLV-CA: 230,000 kg (510,000 lb)
PSLV-XL: 320,000 kg (710,000 lb)[2]
Stages 4
Payload to
3,250 kg (7,170 lb)
Payload to
1,750 kg (3,860 lb)[2]
Payload to
1,425 kg (3,142 lb)[2]
Launch history
Status Active
Launch sites Sriharikota
Total launches 28
PSLV: 11
Successes 26
Failures 1 (PSLV)
Partial failures 1 (PSLV)
First flight PSLV: 20 September 1993
PSLV-CA: 23 April 2007
PSLV-XL: 22 October 2008
Notable payloads Chandrayaan-1, Mars Orbiter Mission
Boosters (PSLV) - S9
No boosters 6
Thrust 510 kN (110,000 lbf)[2]
Specific impulse 262 s (2.57 km/s)
Burn time 44 seconds
Boosters (PSLV-XL) - S12
No boosters 6
Thrust 719 kN (162,000 lbf)[2]
Specific impulse 262 s (2.57 km/s)
Burn time 49 seconds
First Stage
Engines S139
Thrust 4,800 kN (1,100,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 237 s (2.32 km/s) (sea level)
269 s (2.64 km/s) (vacuum)
Burn time 105 seconds
Second Stage
Engines 1 Vikas
Thrust 799 kN (180,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 293 s (2.87 km/s)
Burn time 158 seconds
Fuel N2O4/UDMH
Third Stage
Engines S7
Thrust 240 kN (54,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 294 s (2.88 km/s)
Burn time 83 seconds
Fourth Stage
Engines 2 x L-2-5[3]
Thrust 15.2 kN (3,400 lbf)
Specific impulse 308 s (3.02 km/s)
Burn time 425 seconds

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (Hindi: ध्रुवीय उपग्रह प्रक्षेपण यान), commonly known by its abbreviation PSLV, is an expendable launch system developed and operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It was developed to allow India to launch its Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites into sun synchronous orbits, a service that was, until the advent of the PSLV, commercially available only from Russia. PSLV can also launch small size satellites into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

As of 2014 the PSLV has launched 71 spacecraft (31 Indian and 40 foreign satellites) into a variety of orbits.[4] Some notable payloads launched by PSLV include India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe and the Mars Orbiter Mission.[2]


PSLV was designed and developed in the early 1990s at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. The inertial systems are developed by ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU) at Thiruvanathapuram. The liquid propulsion stages for the second and fourth stages of PSLV as well as the reaction control systems are developed by the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) at Mahendragiri (Tirunelveli), Tamil Nadu. The solid propellant motors are processed at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR) which also carries out launch operations.[citation needed]

After some delays, the PSLV first launched on 20 September 1993. The first and second stages performed as expected, but an attitude control problem led to the collision of the second and third stages at separation, and the payload failed to reach orbit.[5] After this initial setback, the PSLV successfully completed its second mission in 1994.[6] The fourth launch of PSLV suffered a partial failure in 1997, leaving its payload in a lower than planned orbit. Since then, the PSLV has launched 24 times with no further failures.[7]

PSLV continues to be the workhorse of Indian satellite launches, especially for low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. It has undergone several improvements with each subsequent version, especially those involving thrust, efficiency as well as weight. In November 2013 it was used to launch the Mars Orbiter Mission, India's first interplanetary probe.[8]

Vehicle description[edit]

The PSLV has four stages using solid and liquid propulsion systems alternately. The first stage, one of the largest solid rocket motors in the world, carries 138 tonnes of hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) bound propellant and develops a maximum thrust of about 4,800 kN. The 2.8-m diameter motor case is made of maraging steel and has an empty mass of 30,200 kg.[3] Pitch and yaw control during first stage flight is provided by the Secondary Injection Thrust Vector Control System (SITVC), which injects an aqueous solution of strontium perchlorate into the nozzle to produce asymmetric thrust. The solution is stored in two cylindrical aluminum tanks strapped to the solid rocket motor and pressurized with nitrogen. Roll control is provided by two small liquid engines on opposite sides of the stage, the Roll Control Thrusters (RCT).

On the PSLV and PSLV-XL, first stage thrust is augmented by six strap-on solid boosters. Four boosters are ground-lit and the remaining two ignite 25 seconds after launch. In the standard PSLV, each booster carries nine tonnes of propellant and produces 510 kN thrust. The PSLV-XL uses larger boosters which carry 12 tonnes of propellant and produce 719 kN thrust. Two strap-on boosters are equipped with SITVC for additional attitude control.[3] The PSLV-CA uses no strap-on boosters.

The second stage employs the Vikas engine and carries 41.5 tonnes (40 tonnes till C-5 mission) of liquid propellant – unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) as fuel and nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) as oxidizer. It generates a maximum thrust of 800 kN (724 till C-5 mission). The engine is hydraulically gimbaled (±4°) to provide pitch and yaw control, while roll control is provided by two hot gas reaction control motors.

The third stage uses 7 tonnes of HTPB-based solid propellant and produces a maximum thrust of 240 kN. It has a Kevlar-polyamide fiber case and a submerged nozzle equipped with a flex-bearing-seal gimbaled nozzle (±2°) thrust-vector engine for pitch & yaw control. Roll control is provided by the fourth stage reaction control system (RCS).[3]

The fourth stage is powered by twin engines burning monomethylhydrazine (MMH) and mixed oxides of nitrogen (MON). Each engine generates 7.4 kN thrust and is gimbaled (±3°) to provide pitch, yaw & roll control during powered flight. Coast phase attitude control is provided by RCS. The stage carries 2,500 kg of propellant in the PSLV and PSLV-XL and 2,100 kg in the PSLV-CA.[9]

PSLV is developed with a group of wide-range control units.

Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4
Pitch SITVC Engine Gimbal Flex Nozzle Engine Gimbal
Yaw SITVC Engine Gimbal Flex Nozzle Engine Gimbal
Roll RCT and SITVC in 2 PSOMs HRCM Hot Gas Reaction Control Motor PS4 RCS PS4 RCS


ISRO has envisaged a number of variants of PSLV to cater to different mission requirements. There are currently three operational versions of the PSLV — the standard (PSLV), the core-alone (PSLV-CA) without the six strap-on booster motors, and the (PSLV-XL) version, which carries more solid fuel in its strap-on motors than the standard version.[10] These configurations provide wide variations in payload capabilities ranging from 3800 kg in LEO to 1800 kg in sun synchronous orbit.

PSLV (Operational)

The standard version of the PSLV has four stages using solid and liquid propulsion systems alternately and six strap-on boosters. It currently has capability to launch 1,678 kg to 622 km into sun synchronous orbit.

PSLV-CA (Operational)

The PSLV-CA, CA meaning "Core Alone", model premiered on 23 April 2007. The CA model does not include the six strap-on boosters used by the PSLV standard variant. Two small roll control modules and two first-stage motor control injection tanks were still attached to the side of the first stage.[9] The fourth stage of the CA variant has 400 kg less propellant when compared to its standard version.[9] It currently has capability to launch 1,100 kg to 622 km sun synchronous orbit.[11]

PSLV-XL (Operational)

PSLV-XL is the uprated version of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in its standard configuration boosted by more powerful, stretched strap-on boosters.[9] Weighing 320 tonnes at lift-off, the vehicle uses larger strap-on motors (PSOM-XL) to achieve higher payload capability. PSOM-XL uses larger 13.5m, 12 tonnes of solid propellants instead of 9 tonnes used in the earlier configuration of PSLV.[12] On 29 December 2005, ISRO successfully tested the improved version of strap-on booster for the PSLV. The first version of PSLV-XL was the launch of Chandrayaan-1 by PSLV-C11. The payload capability for this variant is 1800 kg compared to 1600 kg for the other variants.[11] Other launches include the RISAT Radar Imaging Satellite and GSAT-12.[13]

Variant Launches Successes Failures Partial failures Remarks
PSLV (Standard) 11 9 1 1
PSLV-CA (Core Alone) 10 10 0 0
PSLV-XL (Extended)[2] 7 7 0 0
PSLV-HP (Under development / Proposed)

As reported on the website of The New Indian Express newspaper (26 April 2007), PSLV project director N Narayanamoorthy spoke of another version being planned called the PSLV-HP, standing for ‘high performance.’ It will have improved strap-on motors,[11] and the payload capability will be raised to 2000 kg.[11] The HP version will be used to launch a constellation of seven navigation satellites between 2010 and 2012.[needs update] Among other things, the efficiency of the stage 4 engine will be improved in this version.

PSLV-3S (Under development / Proposed)

ISRO is also considering the development of a three-stage version of the rocket without six strap-on boosters (with the second stage of the four-stage version removed) which will be capable of placing 500 kg to LEO.[11][14]

Launch history[edit]

As of 16 October 2014 the PSLV has made 28 launches, with 26 successfully reaching their planned orbits, one outright failure and one partial failure. All launches have occurred from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, known before 2002 as the Sriharikota Range.

Flight Variant Launch date/time (UTC) Launch pad Payload Payload mass Result Note(s)
D1 PSLV 20 September 1993
First India IRS 1E 846 kg Failure Maiden flight; attitude control failure at second stage separation
D2 PSLV 15 October 1994
First India IRS-P2 804 kg Success
D3 PSLV 21 March 1996
First India IRS-P3 920 kg Success
C1 PSLV 29 September 1997
First India IRS 1D 1250 kg Partial failure First operational flight; fourth stage under-performed resulting in lower than planned orbit. Satellite used own propulsion to move to correct orbit.
C2 PSLV 26 May 1999
First India Oceansat-1
Germany DLR-Tubsat
South Korea KitSat 3
1050 kg
45 kg
107 kg
Success First launch to have foreign satellites, and first to carry multiple satellites[19][20]
C3 PSLV 22 October 2001
First India TES
Europe PROBA
Germany BIRD
1108 kg
94 kg
92 kg
C4 PSLV 12 September 2002
First India METSAT 1 (Kalpana 1) 1060 kg Success India's first launch to GTO, GTO payload capability has reached 1200 kg from 2002 onward, compared to 1050 kg previously.[23] First use of lightweight carbon composite payload adapter.[24]
C5 PSLV 17 October 2003
First India ResourceSat 1 1360 kg Success Payload capability had been progressively increased by more than 600 kg since the first PSLV launch. Launch took place despite heavy rain.[26]
C6 PSLV 5 May 2005
Second India CartoSat 1
1560 kg
42.5 kg
Success First PSLV launch from the second launch pad
C7 PSLV 10 January 2007
First India CartoSat 2
India SRE
Indonesia LAPAN-TUBsat
Argentina PEHUENSAT-1
680 kg
500 kg
56 kg
6 kg
Success First flight of hardware upgrade, first launch of reentry capsule (SRE)
C8 PSLV-CA 23 April 2007
Second Italy AGILE
India AAM
352 kg
185 kg
Success First flight of the 'Core-Alone' configuration.
ISRO's first commercial launch (foreign satellite as the main payload).[30]
C10 PSLV-CA 21 January 2008
First Israel TecSAR 295 kg Success ISRO's second commercial launch (foreign satellite as the main payload).[32]
C9 PSLV-CA 28 April 2008
Second India Cartosat-2A
Germany RUBIN-8
Canada CanX-6/NTS
Canada CanX-2
Japan Cute-1.7+APD II
Netherlands Delfi-C3
Japan SEEDS-2
Germany COMPASS-1
690 kg
83 kg
8 kg
6.5 kg
3.5 kg
3 kg
2.2 kg
1 kg
1 kg
0.75 kg
C11 PSLV-XL 22 October 2008
Second India Chandrayaan-1 1380 kg Success First flight of the PSLV-XL configuration, first Indian Lunar probe.[36]
C12 PSLV-CA 20 April 2009
Second India RISAT-2
300 kg
40 kg
Success India's first radar imaging satellite (RISAT).[38]
C14 PSLV-CA 23 September 2009
First India Oceansat-2

Luxembourg Rubin 9.1
Germany Rubin 9.2
Switzerland SwissCube-1
Germany BeeSat
Germany UWE-2
Turkey ITUpSAT1

960 kg
8 kg
8 kg
1 kg
1 kg
1 kg
1 kg
Success Rubin 9.1 and 9.2 intentionally remained attached to the fourth stage.[40][41][42] SwissCube-1 was the first Swiss satellite,[43] and ITUpSAT1 was the first satellite to be constructed in Turkey.[44]
C15 PSLV-CA 12 July 2010
First India Cartosat-2B

Algeria ALSAT-2A
Norway AISSat-1[46]
Switzerland TIsat-1[47][48]

690 kg[49]
117 kg[49]
6.5 kg[49]
1 kg
Success AISSat-1 and TIsat are part of NLS-6.[50][51]
C16 PSLV[52] 20 April 2011
First India ResourceSat-2
Singapore X-Sat
IndiaRussia YouthSat
1206 kg
106 kg
92 kg
C17 PSLV-XL 15 July 2011
Second India GSAT-12 1410 kg Success First use of Vikram flight computer.[54]
C18 PSLV-CA 12 October 2011
First IndiaFrance Megha-Tropiques

India Jugnu
Luxembourg VesselSat-1

1000 kg
10.9 kg
3 kg
28.7 kg[56]
C19 PSLV-XL 26 April 2012
First IndiaRISAT-1 1850 kg Success
C21 PSLV-CA 9 September 2012
First France SPOT-6 (France)


720 kg 15 kg Success mRESINS tested avionics for future PSLV launches. ISRO's third commercial launch (foreign satellite as the main payload).
C20 PSLV-CA 25 February 2013
First IndiaFrance SARAL

Canada Sapphire[58]
Canada NEOSSat[58]
Austria TUGSAT-1[58]
Austria UniBRITE-1[59]
United Kingdom STRaND-1[60]
Denmark AAUSAT3[58]

409 kg
148 kg
74 kg
14 kg
14 kg
6.5 kg
0.8 kg
Success TUGSAT-1 and UniBRITE were the first Austrian satellites.
C22 PSLV-XL 1 July 2013
First India IRNSS-1A 1425 kg Success India’s first regional navigation satellite
C25[62] PSLV-XL 5 November 2013
First India Mars Orbiter Mission 1350 kg Success India's first Mars mission.
C24[64] PSLV-XL 4 April 2014
First India IRNSS-1B 1432 kg Success India's second regional navigation satellite
C23 PSLV-CA 30 June 2014
First France SPOT-7
Canada Can-X4
Canada Can-X5
Germany AISAT
Singapore VELOX-1
714 kg
15 kg
15 kg
14 kg
7 kg
Success ISRO's fourth commercial launch (foreign satellite as the main payload).
C26 PSLV-XL 15 October 2014
First India IRNSS-1C 1425.4 kg[68] Success Seventh PSLV XL and third Navigation Satellite launch.

Planned launches[edit]

Flight Variant Launch date/time (UTC) Launch pad Payload Payload mass Result Note(s)
C27 PSLV-XL 28 March 2015
India IRNSS-1D 1,380 kg
C28 PSLV 2015 (planned)
India Cartosat-2C
C29 PSLV-XL 2015 (planned)
India Astrosat 1,650 kg

Notable flights[edit]

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle

PSLV flight D1[edit]

This was the first developmental flight of the PSLV d1.[15] The IRS-1E satellite which was proposed to be launched was derived from the engineering model of IRS-1A incorporating a similar camera and an additional German-built monocular electro-optical stereo scanner. Even though the mission was a failure, the launch team and an expert committee appointed thereafter noted that the mission had validated many technologies and that most sub-systems had performed optimally.[69][70]

PSLV flight C1[edit]

The launch was witnessed by the former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral and also marked India's first launch vehicle built without Russian assistance.[71][72]

PSLV flight C2[edit]

In the flight sequence, IRS-P4 was injected first, followed by KITSAT-3 and DLR-TUBSAT in that order.[19] The mission was supported by ISTRAC network of ground stations located at Bangalore, Sriharikota, Lucknow, Mauritius, Bearslake, Russia and Biak, Indonesia. During the initial phase of the mission the ground station at Wilhem in Germany also provided network support. Upon injection of the satellites, data from the IRS-P4 was received at Hyderabad while KITSAT-3 data was received at the ground station in Korea and the data from the TUBSAT was received at the university ground station in Berlin.[20][73]

PSLV flight C5[edit]

The launch took place despite heavy rain which commenced half an hour before the scheduled launch. However, ISRO decided to go ahead with the launch as despite rain, there were no strong winds and there were weather reports suggested that the monsoons would set in by the next day.[26] Following the launch, a press statement released by the Minister of State (Space) announced that the PSLV has been proposed for the Chandrayan 1 moon mission.

PSLV flight C6[edit]

The former President, Dr. Abdul Kalam, witnessed the launch from the Mission Control Centre.[74] It was the first PSLV launch from second pad, using integrate-transfer-and-launch technology. After its integration in the Vehicle Assembly Building, the PSLV-C6 was transported on rails to the Umbilical Tower (UT) located one km away using the Mobile Launch Pedestal where the final operations were carried out.[74]

PSLV flight C7[edit]

The following hardware changes[75][76] were made since PSLV flight C6:

  • first use of DLA (Dual Payload Adapter) to launch 2 primary satellites in time
  • reduction of propellant from 2.5 tonne to 2 tonne in the fourth liquid propellant stage
  • incorporation of a video imaging system to capture payload and DLA separation events
  • altitude based day of launch wind-biased steering programme during Open Loop Guidance
  • removal of Secondary Injection Thrust Vector Control (SITVC) system for one of the strapons ignited in the air.

PSLV flight C9[edit]

The fourth stage first fired Cartosat-2A into orbit at an altitude of 637 km about 885 seconds after lift-off. About 45 seconds later, it propelled IMS-1 into the orbit. Then the six nano satellites belonging to a cluster called NLS-4 were injected into orbit at intervals of 20 seconds each. NLS-5, a single satellite, flew out and finally the tenth satellite Rubin-8 went along with the fourth stage into orbit. Two satellites belonged to India and the remaining were nanosatellites built by universities in different countries.[77] This was the maximum number of satellites placed in orbit, in a single PSLV launch.[78][79][80]

PSLV flight C21[edit]

Launch attended by the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.[81] mRESINS ( mini Redundant Strapdown Inertial Navigation System) bolted to the vehicle's fourth stage, have tested avionics for future PSLV missions.[82]

PSLV flight C22[edit]

Earlier launch date for PSLV C22 was fixed as 12 June 2013 (1.01AM) but the launch had been postponed because of a technical snag in the 2nd stage.[83]

The launch of the first satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), scheduled for 12 June from Sriharikota, has been postponed by 14 days after an anomaly was discovered just 11 days before launch. The satellite IRNSS-1A, which would be the first in a series of seven navigation satellites was scheduled to be launched on board the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C22 at 1.01 am on 12 June. The satellite has undergone its pre-launch checks successfully. However, ISRO said the launch vehicle had an anomaly in one electro-hydraulic control actuators. "During the electrical checks of the launch vehicle, an anomaly was observed in one of the electro-hydraulic control actuators in the second stage. It has been decided to replace this actuator," a statement by ISRO said. Officials added that the replacement of the actuator would take two weeks and it would be carried out at the launch pad and vehicle assembly area.

ISRO then replaced a faulty component in the PSLV-C22 rocket and rescheduled the flight of the IRNSS-1A satellite on it for 11:41 p.m. on 1 July.[84] PSLV-C22, successfully launched IRNSS-1A, the first satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).

At the completion of the countdown, PSLV-C22 lifted off from the First Launch Pad at 23:41 hrs 1 July 2013 with the ignition of the first stage and four strap-on motors of the launch vehicle.[61]

PSLV flight C25[edit]

Main article: Mars Orbiter Mission

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), informally called Mangalyaan is a Mars orbiter that was successfully injected into Earth orbit on 5 November 2013 at 2:38 PM IST (9:08 UTC) atop a PSLV-XL launch vehicle from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Shriharikota (SHAR).

PSLV flight C23[edit]

PSLV-C23 was launched at 9:52 a.m. [IST] on 30 June 2014. It carried five foreign satellites - SPOT-7, NLS-7.1 (CanX-4), NLS-7.2 (CanX-5), AISat and VELOX-1. All five satellites were released successfully.[85] The launch was attended by Prime minister Narendra Modi, the 15th Prime minister of India. The lift-off time was originally planned to be at 9.49 a.m.[IST], but was later rescheduled to 9:52 a.m. [IST] due to debris getting in the trajectory.[86]

Launch failures[edit]

IRS 1E[edit]

On 20 September 1993 a PSLV-D1, the first developmental flight rocket, failed during launch. A significant attitude disturbance occurred during second to third-stage separation, causing the attitude control command to exceed its maximum value. Because of the programming error in the pitch control loop of the digital autopilot software in the guidance and control processor, the required reversal of command polarity did not take place, causing the pitch loop to become unstable, resulted in loss of attitude control and failure to achieve orbit. The attitude control disturbance was traced to failure of one of the retro rockets designed to pull the burnt second stage away from the third stage. The vehicle crashed into the Bay of Bengal 700 seconds after take off.[70]

IRS 1D[edit]

On 29 September 1997 a PSLV-C1 rocket failed during launch. Anomalous interaction between the primary and secondary pressure regulators of the fourth stage caused a reduction in propellant flow and thrust after 250 s of burn time. As a result, the fourth stage was shut down by a software override timer after burning 435 s, before reaching the target orbit or depleting propellant. The injection velocity was 140 m/s low, resulting in an orbit of 301x823 km instead of the planned 817 km circular SSO.[87] Initially, a leak of helium gas from one of the components in the fourth stage was suspected,[71][88] similar to recent Long March 3 launch failure, but later ruled out. Resulting orbit was partially corrected using satellite's on-board thrusters, thereby raising the perigee to 737 km, while the apogee remained at 821 km.[70]

See also[edit]


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