In a stellar odyssey of achievement, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), a four-staged marvel, stands as India’s beacon in the realm of space exploration. As it embarks upon its illustrious 30th year of service, it etches an indomitable legacy, having scripted history with India’s inaugural Moon Orbiter, Chandrayaan-1, the pioneering Mars Mission, Mangalyaan, and now, poised to launch India’s inaugural mission to scrutinize the Sun — Aditya-L1.
In the pantheon of spacefaring nations, the PSLV stands as India’s exemplar, unfurling its commercial launch service prowess. Its inaugural voyage, undertaken in September 1993, laid the foundation for its recognition as India’s quintessential workhorse rocket.
A Chronicle of Triumphs:
During its illustrious career, this quadruple-staged luminary etched milestones for India with its role in catapulting India’s maiden Moon Orbiter, Chandrayaan-1, and orchestrating the inaugural Mars Mission, Mangalyaan. Its latest frontier, the launch of India’s premiere Sun-exploration mission, Aditya-L1, bears testimony to its enduring relevance. Few rockets globally can tout a 30-year legacy punctuated by three pioneering missions.
A Marvel of Endurance:
In the backdrop of a swiftly evolving landscape featuring reusable rocket technologies, environmentally-friendly propellants, cost-effective launch alternatives, and modernized manufacturing techniques, the resilience of the PSLV is nothing short of miraculous. Dr. S Somnath, the visionary leader of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), acknowledges the imminent retirement of the PSLV post 30 additional launches. He alludes to its aged manufacturing process, harkening back to 1980s technology, rendering further cost reductions implausible. Furthermore, he highlights concerns about the noxious and carcinogenic nature of its propellants.
For ISRO, the PSLV remains an exemplar of robustness. In an impressive tally of 58 missions, the PSLV has accomplished triumphs in an astounding 55 endeavors, amassing a staggering 95% success rate, a distinction few rockets worldwide can claim. On the domestic front, India’s heavyweight, the LVM3 rocket, crafted to ascend to the zenith of power in ISRO’s repertoire, boasts a perfect score with seven consecutive successful missions. Nevertheless, in terms of both mission count and versatility, the PSLV looms larger than its brawny counterpart, the LVM3.
The PSLV, a mainstay for ISRO in delivering commercial satellites into orbit, recently joined the elite ranks of the commercial satellite launch domain in October 2022. It efficiently propelled 36 internet-beaming satellites for the UK-based OneWeb. Over the years, the PSLV has lofted an impressive tally of over 350 satellites, both domestic and international, while the LVM3 has hoisted 72 customer satellites, exclusively for OneWeb.
A World Record Achievement:
India etched its name in the annals of space history in 2017, when the PSLV accomplished a world record by deploying 104 satellites in a single mission, a record unchallenged until 2021. It was then that SpaceX’s Falcon 9, towering in power and capabilities compared to the modest PSLV, eclipsed the feat by launching an astounding 143 satellites in a single mission.
The Heart of the Matter: The Vikas Engine
At the epicenter of the PSLV, lies the Vikas engine, an Indo-French collaboration powered by Earth-storable liquid propellants. This indomitable engine is the linchpin of Indian space endeavors and serves as a lasting testament to India-France’s cooperative prowess. Notably, the Vikas engine is integrated into the GSLV and LVM3 rockets, emerging as the most potent Earth-storable liquid propellant engine in ISRO’s arsenal.
At 12:10 pm Indian Standard Time (IST) on Friday, September 1, the countdown for a historic moment commenced at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. The zenith of this countdown, on Saturday, September 2, at 11:50 am, witnessed the grand spectacle of India’s PSLV rocket XL, its most extensive configuration, ascending from India’s spaceport. It carried with it the nation’s inaugural mission to scrutinize the Sun, aptly named Aditya-L1. In
A Cosmic Odyssey:
Aditya-L1, over the course of approximately 120 days, shall embark on a cosmic odyssey, traversing a colossal distance of 1.5 million kilometers into the cosmos. Its destination? Lagrange Point 1 or L1, a celestial vantage point affording an unobstructed view of our radiant Sun.
A Bold Mission Unveiled:
While Aditya-L1’s mission revolves around solar scrutiny, it will traverse a mere one percent of the Earth-Sun distance, in stark contrast to NASA’s Solar Parker Probe, which ventured millions of miles into the Sun’s proximity. The Earth-Sun span measures a colossal 150 million kilometers. The launch of Aditya-L1 transpired a mere ten days after India achieved a soft lunar landing with Chandrayaan-3, consisting of a lander and rover.
Unveiling the Solar Secrets:
The spacecraft, positioned at the coveted L1 point, promises unparalleled insights into solar activities and their repercussions on real-time space weather. Equipped with seven payloads, it shall unravel the mysteries of the photosphere, chromosphere, and the Sun’s outermost layers, the corona, employing electromagnetic, particle, and magnetic field detectors. Four payloads shall cast an unblinking gaze upon the Sun, while the remaining trio shall delve into in-situ investigations of particles and fields at the Lagrange Point L1, paving the path for profound scientific revelations concerning the solar dynamics in the interplanetary realm.