ISRO’s first SSLV launched, suffers ‘data loss’ at terminal stage

‘All stages performed as expected. Data loss is observed during the terminal stage. It is being analysed. Will be updated soon,’ ISRO said in a tweet.
Aerial view of the SSLV rocket prior to its launch
Aerial view of the SSLV rocket prior to its launch
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India’s brand new rocket Small Satellite Launch Vehicle – Developmental Flight (SSLV-D1) was successfully launched from Sriharikota on the morning of Sunday, August 7. However, about 12 minutes into its flight the rocket seems to have hit a problem. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman S Somanath said that the space agency’s first SSLV suffered “data loss” at the terminal stage, adding that all stages have performed as expected and the data loss is being analysed.

Hoping to celebrate in advance the country’s 75th anniversary of Independence in style, ISRO launched its freshly minted rocket, SSLV-D1. At the end of a 7.5 hour countdown, the 34 metre long rocket broke free of the first launch pad and went up at 9.18 am. The rocket’s progress was smooth with all its solid fuel powered engines performing well. However, later a “data loss” was reported, which is being analysed by the research organisation.

SSLV-D1 carried earth observation satellite EOS-02 and co-passenger students’ satellite AzaadiSAT on Sunday. The SSLV-D1/EOS-02 mission by the Indian space agency aims for a bigger share of the demanding SSLV market, as it can place the satellites into Low Earth Orbit. AzaadiSAT contains 75 payloads built by female students from rural regions across the country who were provided guidance. The payloads are integrated by the student team of ‘Space Kidz India’. The ground system developed by ‘Space Kidz India’ will be utilised to receive the data from this satellite, ISRO said.

“All stages performed as expected. The first stage performed and separated, second stage performed and separated, the third stage also performed and separated, and in the terminal phase of the mission, some data loss is occurring and we are analysing the data and we will come back on the status of the satellites as well as the vehicle performance soon,” Somanath said from the Mission Control Centre, minutes after the launch vehicle lifted off from the spaceport. “We are currently in the process of analysing the data to conclude on the final outcome of the mission with respect to stable orbit achieved or not, please wait and we will come back,” he added.

The SSLV design drivers are low cost and have low turnaround time, flexibility in accommodating multiple satellites, launch-on-demand feasibility, minimal launch infrastructure requirements and others, ISRO said. Unlike ISRO’s trusted workhorse – the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLV), the SSLV can carry payloads weighing up to 500 kg and deploy satellites into a 500 km low earth orbit. It uses solid fuel – hydroxyl terminated polybutadiene – to fire the first three stages, taking the payloads to the desired altitude. The fourth stage comprises liquid propulsion-based Velocity Trimming Module (VTM) to place the satellites into orbit.

Small satellites will be a dominant factor in the global space sector, with about 7,000 satellites with a total value of $38 billion expected to be up in the sky by 2027, VK Saraswat, member, Niti Aayog, had said at a space seminar.

ISRO’s Sunday mission is the third this year after the successful PSLV-C53 mission on June 30, which is the dedicated commercial mission of NewSpace India Limited. On February 14, ISRO successfully placed earth observation satellite EOS-04 on board its trusted workhorse PSLV-C52/EOS-04 mission. The radar imaging satellite was designed to provide high quality images under all weather conditions for applications such as agriculture, forestry and plantations.

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