SSLV fails to put satellites in right orbit

NELLORE: The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (Isro) first rocket built to launch payloads of less than 500 kg into space failed to place the two satellites it was carrying into the designated orbit on Sunday.

The Isro said the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D1) placed the EOS-02, a 145-kg Earth observation satellite, and the 8-kg AzaadiSAT, built by 750 students of government schools, in an elliptical orbit instead of a circular one, which rendered them unusable.

At its lowest point, the satellites are just 76 km above Earth, while 100 km is commonly agreed upon as the beginning of space. The failure of the rocket could bring more focus on the Gaganyaan mission which will carry Indian astronauts into space.

In its maiden flight, the 34-metre tall, 120-tonne SSLV-D, costing about `56 crore, took off flawlessly from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, as per schedule at 9.18 am. The Isro announced about 12 minutes later, the satellites had been placed in space. There were no updates after that, indicating that something had gone wrong.

Isro chairman Dr S. Somanath broke the silence after holding discussions with his predecessors K. Radhakrishnan, A.S. Kiran Kumar and K. Sivan, who were present at the mission control centre. “SSLV-D1 mission was completed. All the stages of the rocket performed as expected. There is some data loss in the terminal stage of the rocket," Somanath said. He said the data was being gathered to know the status of the mission.

“All the stages were performed normally. Both the satellites were injected. But the orbit achieved was less than expected, which makes it unstable,” the Isro said in a very brief statement about the mission sometime later.

“SSLV-D1 placed the satellites into 356 km x 76 km elliptical orbit instead of 356 km circular orbit,” Dr Somanath said. This means that at their lowest point, the satellites were 76 km above earth.

He said the satellites would not stay at such low altitudes for long and would come down. “The two satellites have already come down from that orbit and they are no longer usable,” he added. Somanath said that a panel of experts would look into the failure and identify why it went into an unacceptable orbit. After carrying out corrections and revalidations, the Isro will launch SSLV-D2.

But for that one issue, everything went as scheduled and all equipment on board worked.

The failure of a small rocket in ejecting the two satellites into their intended orbit may put the focus on the safety of Gaganyaan, the human space mission that will be launched by a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-Mk III) with the tricky cryogenic engine.

An agency involved in readying payloads for AzaadiSAT said the students’ satellite got separated and they would know about its status on Sunday night.


·SSLV is a ready-to-transfer rocket with unified systems

· It is 34-metre tall and weighs 120 tonnes

·It can launch satellites weighing less than 500 kg to low Earth orbit

·Known for low cost, low turnaround time, ability to carry multiple satellites

· It requires only minimal launch infrastructure requirements

· Launch of small satellites will be a leading factor in the global space sector

· About 7,000 satellites expected to be up in the sky by 2027

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