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Space derby: How India's PSLV stacks up against peers

A panoramic view of the fully assembled PSLV-C23 at the First Launch Pad with Mobile Service Tower.

A panoramic view of the fully assembled PSLV-C23 at the First Launch Pad with Mobile Service Tower.   | Photo Credit: ISRO

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Of the 41 times the PSLV has been pressed into service, it has only failed twice, thereby giving it a success rate of 95.13%. This should be seen in relation to other rocket launchers such as China's Long March, Russia's Soyuz, and the European Space Agency's Ariane 5.

After 24 years of gravity-defying service as the conduit embodying India's aerospace ambitions, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), came up short in delivering its payload to the reaches of outer space, on Thursday. This was its first failure after 39 successful launches, where it deposited with great acuity, innumerable satellites in pre-ordained paths in the earth's orbit.

A PSLV flight lasts 19 minutes, and has been used in ferrying small-to-medium sized satellites. After being commissioned in 1993 by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), it had cemented its position as the workhorse in India's space programme, successfully launching 209 satellites.

After it went commercial in 1999 under the Antrix Corporation masthead, PSLV has seen its stock rise, launching satellites of 28 different countries. It created launch history in February 2017, when it placed a record haul of 104 spacecrafts in orbit. Of the 104, only three were indigenous satellites, the others being from countries as diverse as Israel and Kazakhstan. The previous record was held by the Russian rocket launcher, Dnepr, when it lobbed 37 satellites into desired orbits.

PSLV launches between 1993 and 2017

Source : Indian Space Research Organisation

 

Of the 41 times the PSLV has been pressed into service, it has only failed twice, thereby giving it a success rate of 95.13%. This should be seen in relation to other rocket launchers such as China's Long March, Russia's Soyuz, and the European Space Agency's Ariane 5.

The Long March family of rocket launchers successfully notched 236 missions of the 250 undertaken since its induction in 1970, rendering it a success rate of 94.4%. The Russian space programme which predates its Indian counterpart has an illustrious history of successful missions despite the Soyuz U registering a failure in December 2016.

There have been 1,209 launches of all nine variants of the Soyuz, of which 37 missions failed to reach the desired orbit. This yields a success rate of 97% over a period of time ranging as far back as 1966, during the early days of the Cold War when the space race had become a matter of prestige between the Soviet Union and the United States in their quest to shape a new world order after World War II.

Similarly, the European Space Agency's Ariane 5 enjoys a success rate of 95.7% with a total of 90 launches undertaken. However, it holds a clean sheet since June 2003, completing 80 successive missions without failure.

Interplanetary transportation company SpaceX, which is owned by Tesla-founder Elon Musk, reported only two failures in 34 missions of its Falcon 9 rocket launcher, which has been contracted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to deliver its payloads. This translates into a success rate of 94.1%. Another NASA contractor, Lockheed Martin-Boeing, is the only anomaly in an industry where the margin of failure has empirically hovered around 5% to 10%. In the 53 flights undertaken since it was commissioned in 2010, the Atlas 5 has never failed.

Source : Space Flight

 

According to data compiled by Space Flight, a total of 85 orbital launch attempts were made in 2016 by eight countries, of which two were outright failures. The countries that undertook rocket launches in 2016 were the United States, China, Russia, India, Israel, Japan, the EU bloc, and North Korea.

What sets the PSLV apart is its comparatively low cost per launch of ₹90 crore ($15 million). This is in contrast to NASA missions launched by Space X and Lockheed Martin-Boeing at estimated costs of $132.4 million and $62 million respectively.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 1:41:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/space-derby-how-indias-pslv-stacks-up-against-peers/article19608785.ece

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