India’s 12th five year plan period (2012-2017) has been generous to the Indian Space Research Organisation: 25 launches, 33 satellites into orbit and an overall budget of $6.4 billion. During 2014-2015, the space agency will spend just over $1 billion on its satellite, launcher and space exploration programmes.

With the Mangalyaan Mars orbiter spacecraft safely on its way to the Red Planet [see related story], the ISRO is focusing on two critical launches: PSLV-C23, scheduled for the June and GSLV Mk III in July.

PSLV-C23 – the latest launch of ISRO’s workhorse, the well-proven Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle – should help secure further commercial launch orders for the agency. The launch will put into orbit the 712kg French SPOT-7 satellite, along with the smaller CanX-4, CanX-5 and AISSat spacecraft.

ISRO received the repeat order from the French after the successful launch of SPOT-6 on PSLV-C21 in 2012. Integration work is under way at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

ISRO hopes to obtain at least one commercial launch yearly for its PSLV. Since 2013, the agency has earned more than $17 million by launching 35 foreign satellites.

However, it is the Mk III variant of the larger Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle that is crucial to ISRO’s future ability to launch satellites in the 4t class. At present, ISRO has the ability to launch satellites in the 2t class with its GSLV, which is a development of the PSLV but intended, as the name indicates, to place large telecommunications satellites into high, geosynchronous orbits.

The programme has been marred by five failures or partial failures in eight flights. Two consecutive failures in 2010 threatened the programme, as the weak link was an indigenously developed, cryogenic fuel upper stage that ISRO needed to replace Russian-supplied stages that are no longer available.

It took until January 2014 to return to flight, with the Indian upper stage. But, in the event, the launch of India’s GSAT-14 communications satellite went to perfection.

The next flight will be of an experimental Mk III version. The indigenous cryogenic engine is more powerful than the one that powered GSLV D-5 during its launch in January this year but it will not be ignited during the experimental flight. For now, launch is scheduled for July, but the cryogenic engine is yet to arrive at SDSC, where the two strap-on boosters and the L-110 core stage are undergoing integration.

Development costs for GSLV Mk III have risen from the original $400 million budgeted to $477 million. This was for completion of the development programme and carrying out an experimental flight called Launch Vehicle Mk III – Experimental (LVM3-X). GSLV Mk III D1 and GSLV Mk III D2 will also make developmental flights

The first development flight (GSLV Mk-III D1) with an operational cryogenic stage is planned in 2016-2017 and the second in 2017-2018 for GSLV Mk III D2.

ISRO’s apparent success with is cryogenic engines has thus been hard won, and the agency is preparing for increased launch frequency for both its PSLV and GSLV rockets. A second vehicle assembly building at SDSC will be built by ISRO at an estimated cost of $58 million. The facility is to be completed by 2019.

The new building will serve as a prime integration facility for a third launch pad and future general launch vehicles. At the moment, the site has two operational pads.

An important series of satellite launches will be for a constellation of seven satellites required for the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, scheduled to be completed by next year. The IRNSS will provide positioning services over the Indian region with an absolute positional accuracy of better than 20m (66ft).

The first of the series, IRNSS-1A was launched in July last year and the next satellite IRNSS-1B is scheduled for launch this year. Two communication satellites – GSAT-15 and GSAT-16 – are also scheduled for launch within the 2014-2016 timeframe.

In January this year, Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO, signed a launch services agreement with DMC International Imaging, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology, for launch of three DMC-3 Earth Observation Satellites being built by SSTL, using the PSLV. Antrix signed another agreement to launch Singapore-based ST Electronics’ TeLEOS-1 Earth Observation Satellite, again via the PSLV. The launches are scheduled towards the end of 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Source: Flight International