Launch vehicles of India

Start music   Jan 11 2017 || 1:38 PM

  • A launch vehicle is a rocket used to carry a payload from Earth's surface into outer space
  • A launch system includes the launch vehicle, the launch pad, and other infrastructure
  • Earth orbital launch vehicles typically have at least 2 stages, & sometimes as many as 4 or more.


Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV)

  • SLV project was started in early 1970s by ISRO
  • The project was headed by APJ Abdul Kalam
  • The purpose was to develop the technology needed to launch satellites
  • A four-stage rocket with all solid-propellant motors
  • Intended to reach a height of 400 km and carry a payload of 40 kg
  • It was used for 4 launches between 1979 & 1983 (The 1st and the 3rd were a failure)


Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV)

  • ASLV project was started during the early 1980s by ISRO
  • The purpose was to develop technologies needed for a payload of 150 kg to be placed into a geostationary orbit
  • A five-stage solid-fuel rocket
  • It was designed in the lines of SLV
  • It was used for 4 launches between 1987 & 1994 (Only the 4th launch was a success)


Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)

  • Designed & developed in the early 1990s at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre near Thiruvananthapuram
  • It was developed to allow India to launch its Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites into Sun-synchronous orbits (SSO)
  • Sun-synchronous orbital launch service was, until the advent of the PSLV, commercially available only from Russia
  • It can also launch small size satellites into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO)
  • PSLV has four stages using solid and liquid propulsion systems alternately
  • Launched a total of 38 times till date with 36 successes, 1 partial failure and 1 failure
  • The first launch was on 20 September 1993, (was a failure)


PSLV Payloads and orbits

It can carry a payload between 1425 kg to 3,800 kg depending on the orbit of injection


Payload (kg)








Variants of PSLV

PSLV-G (Operational)

  • The standard version of the PSLV
  • Has 4 stages using solid & liquid propulsion systems alternately, and six strap-on boosters
  • Has capability to launch 1,678 kg to 622 km into Sun-synchronous orbit.


PSLV-CA (Operational)

  • The PSLV-CA, CA meaning "Core Alone"
  • Does not include the six strap-on boosters used by the PSLV standard variant
  • Has capability to launch 1,100 kg to 622 km Sun synchronous orbit


PSLV-XL (Operational)

  • The up-rated version of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (standard config)
  • Boosted by more powerful, stretched strap-on boosters to achieve higher payload capability
  • The first version of PSLV-XL was used for the launch of Chandrayaan-1 by PSLV C11
  • Payload capability for this variant is 1800 kg


PSLV-3S (Under development)

  • A three-stage version of the rocket without six strap-on boosters
  • Will be capable of placing 500 kg to LEO


Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)


  • GSLV project was initiated in 1990
  • To acquire an Indian launch capability for geosynchronous satellites
  • This is because India had to depend on US and Europe for the launch of INSAT class of satellites.
  • GSLV uses major components that are already proven in the PSLV:
  • S125/S139 solid rocket booster and the liquid-fuelled Vikas engine
  • The third stage was procured from Russian company Glavcosmos in 1991
  • However, Russia backed out of the deal after US sanctions were imposed in 1992
  • After that, ISRO started the Cryogenic Upper Stage Project in 1994
  • The first launch was by GSLV Mk I (GSLV-D1) launched on 18 April 2001 (failure)
  • The second launch in 2003 was successful however


Vehicle description

  • A three-stage vehicle with solid, liquid and cryogenic stages respectively
  • Can place approximately 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) into an easterly low Earth orbit



GSLV Mk I (a) (retired)

  • Had a S-125 solid rocket booster first stage
  • Capable of launching 1500 kg into geostationary transfer orbit


GSLV Mk I (b)

  • Had S-139 solid rocket booster first stage and improved fuel in the strap-on boosters and second stage
  • Can launch 1900 kg into geostationary transfer orbit


GSLV Mk I (c)

  • Has a 15 tonne propellant loading in the third stage, called the C-15
  • GSLV-F06 (flight 6) is the only attempted launch of the Mark I(c) version to date and it was a failure



  • This variant uses an Indian cryogenic engine, the CE-7.5
  • Capable of launching 2500 kg into geostationary transfer orbit
  • All previous GSLV vehicles (GSLV Mk.I) have used Russian cryogenic engines


GSLV-III (under development)

  • Intended to launch satellites into geostationary orbit
  • Also intended as a launcher for an Indian crew vehicle

Features an Indian cryogenic third stage and a higher payload capacity than the current GSLV (3,775 kg)