Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle

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Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle
PSLV C-35 at the launch pad (cropped).jpg
PSLV C35 on launch pad
Function Medium lift launch system
Manufacturer ISRO
Country of origin  India
Cost per launch

$21-31 million

₹130-200 crore [1]
Height 44 m (144 ft)
Diameter 2.8 m (9 ft 2 in)
Mass PSLV-G: 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 LEO 3,800 kg (8,400 lb)[3]
Payload to SSO(620 km) 1,750 kg (3,860 lb)[2]
Payload to Sub-GTO 1,425 kg (3,142 lb)[2]
Payload to GTO 1,200 kg (2,600 lb)[4]
Launch history
Status Active
Launch sites Sriharikota
Total launches 44
Successes 41
Failures 2
Partial failures 1
First flight PSLV: 20 September 1993
PSLV-CA: 23 April 2007
PSLV-XL: 22 October 2008
Notable payloads Chandrayaan-1, Mars Orbiter Mission, Astrosat, SRE-1, NAVIC
Boosters (PSLV-G) – S9
No. boosters 6
Thrust 510 kN (110,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 262 s (2.57 km/s)
Burn time 44 seconds
Boosters (PSLV-XL) – S12
No. boosters 6
Length 12 m (39 ft)[5]
Diameter 1 m (3.3 ft)[5]
Propellant mass 12,200 kg (26,900 lb) each[5]
Thrust 703.5 kN (158,200 lbf) [6]
Specific impulse 262 s (2.57 km/s)
Burn time 70 seconds [6]
First stage
Length 20 m (66 ft)[5]
Diameter 2.8 m (9.2 ft)[5]
Propellant mass 138,200 kg (304,700 lb) each[5][2]
Motor S139
Thrust 4,846.9 kN (1,089,600 lbf) [6]
Specific impulse 237 s (2.32 km/s) (sea level)
269 s (2.64 km/s) (vacuum)
Burn time 110 seconds [6]
Second stage
Length 12.8 m (42 ft)[5]
Diameter 2.8 m (9.2 ft)[5]
Propellant mass 42,000 kg (93,000 lb) each[5]
Engines 1 Vikas
Thrust 803.7 kN (180,700 lbf) [6]
Specific impulse 293 s (2.87 km/s)
Burn time 133 seconds [6]
Fuel N2O4/UDMH
Third stage
Length 3.6 m (12 ft)[5]
Diameter 2 m (6.6 ft)[5]
Propellant mass 7,600 kg (16,800 lb) each[5]
Motor S-7[7]
Thrust 240 kN (54,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 295 s (2.89 km/s)
Burn time 83 seconds
Fourth stage
Length 3 m (9.8 ft)[5]
Diameter 1.3 m (4.3 ft)[5]
Propellant mass 2,500 kg (5,500 lb) each[5]
Engines 2 x L-2-5[7]
Thrust 14.66 kN (3,300 lbf) [6]
Specific impulse 308 s (3.02 km/s)
Burn time 425 seconds

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is an expendable launch system developed and operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is a Medium-lift launch vehicle. 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 in 1993, commercially available only from Russia. PSLV can also launch small size satellites into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).[8]

Some notable payloads launched by PSLV include India's first lunar probe Chandrayaan-1, India's first interplanetary mission, Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan) and India's first space observatory, Astrosat.[2]

PSLV has gained credence as a small satellite launcher due its numerous multi-satellite deployment campaigns with auxiliary payloads usually ride sharing along an Indian primary payload. Most notable among these was the launch of PSLV C37 on 15 February 2017 successfully deploying 104 satellites in sun-synchronous orbit, tripling the previous record held by Russia for most number of satellites sent to space on a single launch.[9][10]

Payloads can be integrated in tandem configuration employing a Dual Launch Adapter.[11][12] Smaller payloads are also placed on equipment deck and customized payload adapters.[13]


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

The PSLV was 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.[14] After this initial setback, the PSLV successfully completed its second mission in 1994.[15] The fourth launch of PSLV suffered a partial failure in 1997, leaving its payload in a lower than planned orbit. By Nov 2014 the PSLV had launched 34 times with no further failures.[16] (Although launch 41: Aug 2017 PSLV-C39 was unsuccessful.[2])

PSLV continues to support Indian and foreign 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.[17]

ISRO is planning to privatise the operations of PSLV and will work through a joint venture with private industries. The integration and launch will be managed an industrial consortium through Antrix Corporation.[18]

In June 2018, the Union Cabinet approved 6,131 crore (US$850 million) for 30 operational flights of the PSLV scheduled to take place between 2019 and 2024.[19]

Vehicle description[edit]

PSLV scale model.

The PSLV has four stages using solid and liquid propulsion systems alternately. The first stage, one of the largest solid rocket boosters in the world, carries 138 t (304,000 lb) tonnes of hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene-bound (HTPB) propellant and develops a maximum thrust of about 4,800 kilonewtons (1,100,000 lbf). The 2.8 m (9 ft 2 in) diameter motor case is made of maraging steel and has an empty mass of 30,200 kilograms (66,600 lb).[7] 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 aluminium tanks strapped to the solid rocket motor and pressurised 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. The solid boosters carry 9 t (20,000 lb) or 12 t (26,000 lb) (for PSLV-XL configuration) propellant and produce 510 kN (110,000 lbf) and 719 kN (162,000 lbf) thrust respectively. Two strap-on boosters are equipped with SITVC for additional attitude control.[7] The PSLV-CA uses no strap-on boosters.

The second stage employs the Vikas engine and carries 41.5 t (91,000 lb) of liquid propellant – unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) as fuel and nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) as oxidiser. It generates a maximum thrust of 800 kN (180,000 lbf). 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 t (15,000 lb) of hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene-based solid propellant and produces a maximum thrust of 240 kN (54,000 lbf). It has a Kevlar-polyamide fibre 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).[7]

The fourth stage is powered by twin engines burning monomethylhydrazine (MMH) and mixed oxides of nitrogen (MON). Each engine generates 7.4 kN (1,700 lbf) 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 (5,500 lb) of propellant in the PSLV and PSLV-XL and 2,100 kg (4,600 lb) in the PSLV-CA.[20]

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 two operational versions of the PSLV — the core-alone (PSLV-CA) without any strap-on motors, and the (PSLV-XL) version, with six extended length (XL) strap-on motors carrying 12 tonnes of HTPB based propellant each.[21] These configurations provide wide variations in payload capabilities up to 3,800 kg (8,400 lb) in LEO and 1,800 kg (4,000 lb) in sun-synchronous orbit.

PSLV-G (retired)[edit]

The standard or 'Generic' version of the PSLV, PSLV-G had four stages using solid and liquid propulsion systems alternately and six strap-on motors (PSOM or S9) with 9 tonne propellant loading. It had capability to launch 1,678 kg (3,699 lb) to 622 km (386 mi) into sun-synchronous orbit. PSLV-C35 was last operational launch of PSLV-G before its discontinuation.[22][23][24]


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 but two SITVC tanks with Roll Control Thruster modules are still attached to the side of the first stage with addition of two cylindrical aerodynamic stabilizers.[20][24] The fourth stage of the CA variant has 400 kg (880 lb) less propellant when compared to its standard version.[20] It currently has capability to launch 1,100 kg (2,400 lb) to 622 km (386 mi) Sun synchronous orbit.[25]


PSLV-XL is the upgraded version of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in its standard configuration boosted by more powerful, stretched strap-on boosters with 12 tonne propellant load.[20] Weighing 320 t (710,000 lb) at lift-off, the vehicle uses larger strap-on motors (PSOM-XL or S12) to achieve higher payload capability.[26] On 29 December 2005, ISRO successfully tested the improved version of strap-on booster for the PSLV. The first use of PSLV-XL was the launch of Chandrayaan-1 by PSLV C11. The payload capability for this variant is 1,800 kg (4,000 lb) to SSO.[25] Other launches include the RISAT (Radar Imaging Satellite) and GSAT-12.[27] All three PSLV launches in 2017 were of the -XL.[2]

Variant Launches Successes Failures Partial failures
PSLV (Standard) 12 10 1 1
PSLV-CA (Core Alone) 12 12 0 0
PSLV-XL (Extended)[2] 20 19 1 0
Total till September 2018[2] 44 41 2 1
PSLV-3S (Concept)

PSLV-3S was conceived as a three-staged version of PSLV with its six strap-on boosters and second liquid stage removed. The total lift-off mass of PSLV-3S was expected to be 175 tonnes with capacity to place 500 kg in 550 km low Earth orbit.[25][28][29][30][31]

Launch history[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SURPLUS MISSILE MOTORS: Sale Price Drives Potential Effects on DOD and Commercial Launch Providers". GAO.gov. U.S. Government Accountability Office. 16 August 2017. Retrieved 2 May 2018. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle". Retrieved 2014-12-21. 
  3. ^ "Access to Space" (PDF). 2011. Retrieved March 8, 2017. 
  4. ^ "ISRO at India Mobile Congress 2017". Retrieved September 29, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "PSLV-C37 Brochure". ISRO. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "PSLV_C41_Brochure" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 April 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2018. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "PSLV Launch Vehicle Information". Spaceflight 101. Retrieved February 20, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Welcome To ISRO :: Launch Vehicles". Retrieved 2014-04-08. 
  9. ^ Barry, Ellen (2017-02-15). "India Launches 104 Satellites From a Single Rocket, Ramping Up Space Race". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-02-15. 
  10. ^ "ISRO's record satellites' launch: 10 top facts - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-02-15. 
  11. ^ "PSLV C35 / Scatsat-1 with Dual Launch Adapter". Retrieved 19 December 2017. 
  12. ^ Cong, Indian Science (5 January 2016). "Here's the #103ISC Official Newsletter 2nd edition brought by Journalism students and researchers. 2/2 @PIB_Indiapic.twitter.com/mLq9CZnY5T". @103ISC. Retrieved 2017-12-19. 
  13. ^ "The DMC3 Constellation launch in photos". Retrieved 19 December 2017. 
  14. ^ "India (Launchers)". Spacecraft Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  15. ^ "PSLV (1)". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  16. ^ "PSLV". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  17. ^ "Welcome To ISRO :: Mars Orbiter Mission". Retrieved 2014-04-08. 
  18. ^ "ISRO looks at JV for PSLV manufacture; launch to be privatized by 2020". Geospatial World. 2017-10-26. Retrieved 2017-10-26. 
  19. ^ "Government approves Rs 10,000-crore continuation programmes for PSLV, GSLV". The Economic Times. 7 June 2018. Retrieved 8 June 2018. 
  20. ^ a b c d "PSLV Datasheet". 
  21. ^ Subramanian, T.S. (15 July 2011). "The PSLV is a proud symbol of ISRO's self-reliance". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 
  22. ^ "Where India reaches for the stars: Inside ISRO's Sriharikota Centre". Hindustan Times. 2016-06-22. Retrieved 2018-09-15. Today, the PSLV is available in three configurations — the generic vehicle with six strap-ons, which is the earlier edition of PSLV (which will be discontinued soon) 
  23. ^ "Outcome Budget 2016-2017" (PDF). Government of India, Department of Space. 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2018. Currently, two versions of PSLV are operational, namely PSLV-XL (with six extended version of Strap-on motors) and the PSLV Core-alone (without Strap-on motors). 
  24. ^ a b "2.6 PSLV: The Workhorse of ISRO by N. Narayanamoorthy". From Fishing Hamlet to Red Planet: India's Space Journey. Harpercollins. 2015. ISBN 978-9351776895. 
  25. ^ a b c "India's PSLV" (PDF). www.earth2orbit.com. 15 March 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 July 2011. 
  26. ^ PSLV-C11 Successfully Launches Chandrayaan-1 Archived 25 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ "New Solid Propellant Motor to Increase PSLV Capability". ISRO. 
  28. ^ "Evolution of Indian launch vehicle technologies" (PDF). www.ias.ac.in. Indian Academy of Sciences. 25 Dec 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 May 2011. 
  29. ^ "Future of Space Transportation: S. Somanath" (PDF). 9 February 2016. 
  30. ^ Murthi, K.R. Sridhara (9 May 2009). "Space Debris Mitigation - Coordination and Implementation efforts in India" (PDF). Retrieved 22 November 2017. 
  31. ^ "ISRO's baby rocket to carry small satellites, likely to take off in 2019". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2018-01-02. 

External links[edit]