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In a development that will revolutionalise the satellite launch system in the country, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is developing a small launch vehicle that can be assembled in just three days as compared to 30-40 days for a normal-sizedPSLV and can be built at a cost which will be just one-tenth the original manufacturing cost of a PSLV. The manufacturing cost of a launch vehicle is generally in the range of Rs 150 crore to Rs 500 crore across the world.Dr K Sivan, director of Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC),on the sidelines of an international seminar on ‘Indian Space Programme’ told TOI, “Isro is busy developing a small launch vehicle which is likely to be ready for launch probably by 2018-end or early-2019. The cost of this vehicle will get drastically reduced by one-tenth of the manufacturing cost of a normal PSLV. However, this rocket will have the total payload capacity of 500 to 700 kg and can launch satellites only up to the polar sun-synchronous orbit or near-earth orbit (500-700 km in altitude).”India has a slew of satellites in the near-earth orbit that are used for the purpose of earth imaging, weather tracking and reconnaissance.”The weight of this mini-PSLV will be just 100 tonnes as compared to 300 tonnes of the normal-sized launch vehicle,” Dr Sivan said.The “cost-effective” vehicle programme is in line with Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar’s recent statement that the space agency has been striving to “reduce the cost of access to space” and so that more and more of space technologies can be used for the benefit of the common man.Explaining the advantage, Dr K Sivan said, “The amount of money used in building a normal-size PSLV rocket can actually be used to manufacture multiple numbers of such mini-PSLVs, which, in turn, can launch several satellites. So, Isro will be able to launch several satellites in less money.” Likea normal PSLV, he said, “Such small vehicles will too be capable of launching multiple nano satellites.”Isro has started working on the idea of building this small rocket keeping in mind the emerging market of nano satellites. Till now, satellites of foreign customers are accommodated in launch vehicles only as secondary passengers. With Isro eyeing to capture the market of nano satellites, the small vehicle can be a boon for foreign satellite customers as the rocket can be readied in just threedays on demand. On February 15 this year, Isro’s workhorse PSLV C37 had launched 104 satellites, mostly of foreign customers, in one go. Likewise onJune 23, the agency had launched 30 small satellites of foreign companies along with the primary satellite Cartosat-2.
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