Bangalore: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is building a smaller launcher designed to put remote-sensing satellites, weighing less than 500kg, into low earth orbits (LEO). Such launchers will cost 40 per cent less than existing rockets.
An orbit 400-500km above the earth is designated as a low-earth orbit. Satellites launched into LEOs circle the earth at shorter intervals than their heavier geo-synchronous cousins and so can return to cover a specific point on the planet at shorter intervals.
The newly designed three stage launcher will cater to the country's military as well as international customers.
"This (launcher) is for strategic reasons. There is also demand from international customers," an ISRO official is quoted as saying. He also said the new launcher would take around six months to build. According to the official, ISRO was developing a variant of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
The PSLV, Isro's workhorse, can launch satellites of 1.3 tonnes into polar orbits. Since 2007 stripped-down versions of the rocket have carried lighter Israeli and Italian satellites into LEOs. "We had to first send it to polar orbit, burn the rocket for long, before we placed TecSAR in the low (earth) orbit," said another official at the space agency. "That (detour) consumed 60% of the energy of the rocket."
TecSAR is a 300kg Israeli spy satellite which ISRO placed in LEO in January this year. Earlier it had launched a 352kg Italian astronomical satellite Agile in April 2007.
It currently costs Rs100 crore to launch a satellite on a PSLV rocket.
The Indian Air Force's first dedicated satellite intended to gather navigational information will be launched in July next year. The satellite, according to IAF chief ACM Fali H Major, would serve as the force's eye in the skies.
In June this year, the government had said, without elaborating, that it was setting up an Integrated Space Cell to counter a growing threat to India's space assets.