launch vehicle

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (usually known by its abbreviation, PSLV) is an expendable launch system 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 viable only from Russia. PSLV can also launch small size satellites into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

In september 2008 Indian scientists developed a path-breaking technology that has the potential to increase the range of missiles and satellite launch vehicles by at least 40%.The enhanced range is made possible by adding a special-purpose coating of chromium metal to the blunt nose cone of missiles and launch vehicles. This would add-up on the stated range.


The PSLV has four stages using solid and liquid propulsion systems alternately. The first stage is one of the largest solid-fuel rocket boosters in the world and carries 138 metric tonnes of Hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) binded propellant with a diameter of 2.8 m. The motor case is made of maraging steel. The booster develops a maximum thrust of about 4,430 kN. Six strap-on motors, four of which are ignited on the ground, augment the first stage thrust. Each of these solid propellant strap-on motors carries nine metric tonne of HTPB propellant and produces 677 kN thrust. Pitch and yaw control of the PSLV during the thrust phase of the solid motor is achieved by injection of an aqueous solution of strontium perchlorate in the nozzle to constitute Secondary Injection Thrust Vector Control System (SITVC). The injection is stored in two cylindrical aluminum tanks strapped to the solid rocket motor and pressurized with nitrogen. SITVC in two strap-on motors is for roll control augmentation.

The second stage employs the Vikas engine and carries 41.5 metric tonne (40 metric tonne till C-5 mission) of liquid propellant Unsymmetrical Di-Methyl Hydrazine (UDMH) as fuel and Nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) as oxidizer. It generates a maximum thrust of 800 kN (724 till C-5 mission). Pitch & yaw control is obtained by hydraulically gimbaled engine (±4°) and two hot gas reaction control for roll.

The third stage uses 7 metric tonne of HTPB-based solid propellant and produces a maximum thrust of 324 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. For roll control it uses the RCS (Reaction Control System) of fourth stage.

The fourth and the terminal stage of PSLV has a twin engine configuration using liquid propellant. With a propellant loading of 2 metric tonne (Mono-Methyl Hydrazine as fuel + Mixed Oxides of Nitrogen as oxidiser), each of these engines generates a maximum thrust of 7.4 kN. Engine is gimbaled (±3°) for pitch, yaw & roll control and for control during the coast phase uses on-off RCS. PSLV-C4 used a new lightweight carbon composite payload adapter to enable a greater GTO payload capability.

The polar satellite was launched on February 24th.




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 1,600 kg to 622 km sun synchronous orbit. PSLV-CA

The PSLV-CA, with CA meaning "Core Alone", uses the core stages without any strap-on boosters. It currently has capability to launch 1,100 kg to 622 km sun synchronous orbit.

Under development / Proposed

PSLV-XL On 29 December, 2005, ISRO successfully tested an improved version of the strap-on booster for the PSLV. It will be used for future PSLV flights, including the launches of Chandrayaan-1 and the RISAT Radar Imaging Satellite.. The payload capability for this variant will be 1800 kg compared to 1600 kg for the current one. PSLV-HP As reported on the website of The New Indian Express newspaper (April 26, 2007), PSLV project director N Narayanamoorthy spoke of another version being planned called the PSLV-HP, standing for ‘high performance.’ It will have strap-ons motors, but the payload capability will be raised to 2000 kg. The HP version will be used to launch a constellation of seven navigation satellites between 2010 and 2012. Among other things, the efficiency of the stage 4 engine will be improved in this version. Three-stage PSLV ISRO is also considering the development of a three-stage version of the rocket (with the second stage of the four-stage version removed) which will be capable of placing 500 kg to LEO.


After some delays, the PSLV had its first launch on 20 September 1993. Although all main engines performed as expected, an altitude control problem was reported in the second and third stages. After this initial setback, ISRO met complete success with the third developmental launch in 1996. Further successful launches followed in 1997, 1999, and 2001.

In September 2002, the 1060 kg KALPANA-1 was launched by PSLV-C4 into GTO. On 17 October 2003, the 1360 kg Earth observing ResourceSat1 was launched by PSLV-C5.

On May 5, 2005, PSLV-C6 launched two satellites into orbit; CARTOSAT-I a stereoscopic Earth observation satellite with cartographic applications, weighing 1560 kg, and HAMSAT providing satellite based radio service for amateur radio operators, weighing 42.5 kg into a high polar orbit (632 x 621 km).

PSLV will continue be the work horse of the ISRO for its launches, especially for LEO satellites and the Chandrayaan Projects. It has undergone several improvements with each subsequent version, especially those involving thrust, efficiency and weight.

On January 10, 2007, the PSLV-C7 carried four satellites - the 680 kg Indian remote sensing satellite CARTOSAT-2, the 550 kg Space Capsule Recovery Equipment (SRE-1), Indonesia's LAPAN-TUBSAT (60kg) and Argentina's 6 kg nanosatellite called NANO PEHUENSAT-1 into orbit.

On April 23, 2007, the PSLV-C8 carried its first commercial satellite, the Agile for the Italian Space Agency as main payload with the Advanced Avionics Module as its secondary payload Successfully. This was ISRO's first purely commercial launch. All launches of foreign satellites before this had been of micro-satellites or light weight satellites piggybacked on the PSLV, with an Indian satellite being the primary payload. The PSLV-C8 was also launched without its regular 6 strap-on boosters. Another first for ISRO was the inclination of 2.5o (equatorial orbit), which made launch comparatively riskier than usual.

On 21 January 2008, PSLV-C10 launched the Israeli TecSAR satellite. Launch is reported to have been successful.

On 28 April 2008, PSLV-C9 launched ten satellites, the most number ISRO has deployed in one launch. PSLV-C9 placed on orbit an imaging satellite Cartosat-2A India, technology demonstrator IMS-1/TWSAT, and a cluster of eight nanosatellites from different countries. The launch is reported a success.

Launch log

Vehicle Variant Date of Launch Launch Location Payload Mass Mission Status Note(s)
D1 PSLV 20 September 1993 Sriharikota IRS 1E 845 kg Failure First development flight. Software error causes vehicle crash in to the Bay of Bengal (700 seconds after take off)
D2 PSLV 15 October 1994 Sriharikota IRS P2 904 kg Success First successful development flight
D3 PSLV 21 March 1996 Sriharikota IRS P3 920 kg Success
C1 PSLV 29 September 1997 Sriharikota IRS 1D 1,200 kg Failure Suboptimal injection of Satellite
C2 PSLV 26 May 1999 Sriharikota OceanSat 1
KitSat 3
1,198 kg Success First successful commercial flight.
C3 PSLV 22 October 2001 Sriharikota TES
1,294 kg Success
C4 PSLV 12 September 2002 Sriharikota METSAT 1 (Kalpana 1) 1,055 kg Success
C5 PSLV 17 October 2003 Sriharikota ResourceSat 1 1,360 kg Success
C6 PSLV 5 May 2005 Sriharikota* CartoSat 1
1,602 kg Success
C7 PSLV 10 January 2007 Sriharikota CartoSat 2
1,210 kg Success Used a device called Dual Launch Adapter for the first time to launch four satellites. Used for the first time a video imaging system on board to take pictures of the separation of the first three satellites from the fourth stage of rocket.
C8 PSLV-CA 23 April 2007 Sriharikota* AGILE
537 kg Success First flight of the 'core-alone' version
C10 PSLV-CA 21 January 2008 Sriharikota TECSAR 260 kg Success
C9 PSLV-CA 28 April 2008 Sriharikota* Cartosat-2A
Cute 1.7+APD-2
Compass 1
800 kg Success The most satellites (10) launched at once by the PSLV.
Planned launches
C11 PSLV-XL 22nd October 2008 Sriharikota Chandrayaan I 1304 kg Planned
C?? PSLV 2008 Sriharikota OceanSat-2 Planned
C?? PSLV mid 2009 Sriharikota Astrosat Planned


  • * means Second Launch Pad.


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