The first developmental flight of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro)’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) is scheduled in the fourth quarter of 2021 from Sriharikota’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Union minister for state for the department of space Jitendra Singh said in a written reply in Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
The flight was initially scheduled for last year. But it has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Isro usually inducts a launch vehicle into its operational fleet after two successful development flights.
Singh said SSLV is ideal for the on-demand, and quick-turnaround launch of small satellites. “The major technologies developed as part of realization of SSLV are flexible nozzle control with electro-mechanical actuators for all stages, miniaturized avionics and a velocity trimming module in the upper stage for precise satellite injection,” he said.
Ajay Lele, a senior fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, said: “We have not been able to successfully create a bio-bubble like China and US that have been carrying out missions through the pandemic. As for the commercial launches like the maiden flight of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle, many customers have already booked slots for their satellites but if the missions keep on getting delayed, they might move towards other launch providers.”
Singh also said the earth observation satellite EOS-3 is likely to be launched in the current quarter. HT has reported that EOS-3, also known as GISAT-1 as per the previous nomenclature, is likely to be launched in mid-August, thereby restarting the country’s space activities after a break of four months.
The satellite will provide near real-time imaging of the Indian subcontinent that can be used to monitor natural disasters, agriculture, forestry, mineralogy among others. It is one of the two paired satellites, the other being GISAT-2 or EOS-5, which will be able to provide an image of the Indian landmass every 30 minutes with a spatial resolution of 50 metres.
Singh said the Space Activities Bill was also under consideration by the government. The bill seeks to ensure licensed entities carry out operations in a manner that prevents the contamination of outer space or damage to the earth’s environment. It provides for imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of over ₹1 crore if any activity is undertaken without prior licensing. The bill says any intellectual property right developed onboard a space object in outer space will be the property of the Central government.