India’s launch attempts

By Venkatachari Jagannathan | 08 May 2001

Out of India’s fourteen – including the recent Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) flight – launches, ten have been successful. While one was considered a partial success, three flights have been termed as "unsuccessful".

It may be recalled that rocket development in India started with the establishment of Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station near Thiruvananthapuram in 1963 for carrying out scientific experiments in aeronomy and astronomy using imported rockets.

From the days of sending a small 75mm-diameter sounding rocket, Rohini RH-75, the country has come a long way. Today, India operates a family of sounding rockets of diameters ranging from 200 to 560 mm and capable of carrying upto 200 kg payloads to an altitude of 300-400 km. In February-March 2000, 45 rockets were flown on consecutive days, for a major scientific campaign, namely, the Equatorial Wave Campaign.

The country’s first successful experimental satellite launch vehicle, SLV-3, placed a Rohini satellite RS-1 in orbit blasting off from SHAR Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on July 18, 1980.

The earlier attempt on August 10, 1979, with a 17-tonne SLV-3E1 was partially successful as a jammed valve in the second stage control system resulted in the leak of an oxidiser.

Later, having in mind the long-term goal of realising polar and geosynchronous launch capability for operational class of satellites, India undertook the development of an Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) as a low-cost intermediate vehicle for demonstrating critical technologies.

This was followed by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) project in 1982. In its first operational flight, PSLV placed the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellite IRS-1D into polar orbit. Its second operational flight on May 26, 1999, saw the placing of IRS-P4 along with two satellites -- the KITSAT, Korea, and DLR -TUBSAT, Germay, -- into the precise sun synchronous polar orbit.

Today, PSLV is being offered to carry satellites of other space agencies. A satellite, BIRD, belonging to German space agency, DLR and another PROBA, Belgium, are scheduled for launch along with India’s TES satellite sometime during 2001-02. PSLV will also be used for geosynchronous satellite mission and the first such mission will see the launch of the country’s meteorological satellite, METSAT, in 2002.

Many of the proven systems of PSLV are now used in GSLV.

Table of India’s space launches

Space vehicle Launch date Result
SLV-3 E1 10 August 1979 Partially successful, since a jammed valve in the second stage resulted in the leak of the oxidiser
SLV-3 E2 18 July 1980 Successful
SLV-3 D1 31 May 1981 Successful
SLV-3 D2 17 April 1983 Successful
ASLV - D1 24 March 1987 Unsuccessful due to non-ignition of first stage
ASLV-D2 13 July 1988 Unsuccessful
ASLV-D3 20 May 1992 Successful
ASLV-D4 04 May 1994 Successful
PSLV-D1 20 September 1993 Unsuccessful
PSLV-D2 15 October 1994 Successful
PSLV-D3 21 March 1996 Successful
PSLV-C1 29 September 1997 Successful
PSLV-C2 26 May 1999 Successful
GSLV-D1 18 April 2001 Successful


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