ISRO’s Next-Gen Launch Vehicle may assume PSLV’s role

NGLV to replace operational launch vehicles such as PSLV in due course

October 13, 2022 07:33 pm | Updated October 14, 2022 10:43 am IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

ISRO chairman S. Somanath speaks at the Indian Space Conclave 2022 in New Delhi on October 10, 2022.

ISRO chairman S. Somanath speaks at the Indian Space Conclave 2022 in New Delhi on October 10, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is developing a Next-Gen Launch Vehicle (NGLV), which will one day replace operational systems like the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), ISRO Chairman S. Somanath has said.

The PSLV, often dubbed the ‘trusted workhorse’ of ISRO, ‘‘will have to retire’‘ one day, Mr. Somanath said during the three-day Engineers Conclave 2022 which opened at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), Valiyamala in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday.

In NGLV, ISRO is understood to be looking at a cost-efficient, three-stage to orbit, reusable heavy-lift vehicle with a payload capability of ten tonnes to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

NGLV will feature semi-cryogenic propulsion (refined kerosene as fuel with liquid oxygen (LOX) as oxidiser) for the booster stages which is cheaper and efficient, Mr. Somanath said.

''We believe at least 10 tonne capability to GTO is needed. Correspondingly, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) capability will be twice that. However, payload capability will be lower when the rocket is reusable,'' he said.

Simple, robust design

NGLV will feature a simple, robust design which allows bulk manufacturing, modularity in systems, sub-systems and stages and minimal turnaround time. Potential uses will be in the areas of launching communication satellites, deep space missions, future human spaceflight and cargo missions.

On PSLV’s future, Mr. Somanath said it will be operated as long as there is a commercial demand for it.

''The technologies, the manufacturing and cost associated with the systems, all go through changes. Same is the case with the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). But the GSLV Mk-III (LVM3) is just a few years old. If you look at launch vehicles, technology induction at the appropriate time is essential,'' he said.

Mr. Somanath said it is also important to develop a ''business model'' for NGLV so that it serves its aims. This will include launching commercial satellites and national missions as well as ensuring industry participation from the start. ''With the backing of ISRO's knowledge, it is possible for industries to support and create this rocket as a national asset,'' he said.

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