Satellite Launch Vehicle Program

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) are two operational launch vehicles of India. They are used to carry spacecraft into space. Read more about the launchers in this article for the IAS Exam preparation.

This section is covered in the UPSC Mains GS 3 (Science and Technology). Prepare better for paper-3 with the UPSC Mains GS 3 strategy mentioned in the linked article.

Aspirants should read science and technology-related articles linked below:

RSTV: Semi-Cryogenic Technology for Gaganyaan Gaganyaan Mission
BHUVAN – Geo-Spatial Data NISAR
Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) IN-SPACe

Daily News

What is PSLV?

As mentioned above, the full form of PSLV is the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. It is a launcher that is used to carry spacecraft into space. Some important salient features of PSLV are mentioned below:

  1. It is a third-generation launch vehicle. It is termed as the ‘Workhorse of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)‘.
  2. It is the first launch vehicle of India that has liquid stages. There is a total of 4 stages in this launch vehicle.
    • First Stage – PS 1 – PSLV uses the S139 solid rocket motor that is augmented by 6 solid strap-on boosters.
    • Second Stage – PS 2 – PSLV uses an Earth storable liquid rocket engine for its second stage, known as the Vikas engine, developed by Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre.
    • Third Stage – It is a solid rocket motor that provides the upper stages high thrust after the atmospheric phase of the launch.
    • Fourth Stage – The PS4 is the uppermost stage of PSLV, comprising of two Earth storable liquid engines.
  3. The first successful launch of PSLV was in October 1994.
  4. It has the following variants:
    • PSLV-G: It has strap-on motors
    • PSLV – CA: It does not have strap-on motors
    • PSLV – XL: It has strap-on motors
  5. The capacity of payloads:
    • It can carry the payload of 1750 kg to sun-synchronous polar orbits (SSPO) (Altitude – 600 Kms).
    • It can carry the payload of 1425 kg to Geosynchronous and Geostationary Orbits (GTO).
  6. It has launched Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) Satellites.
Kickstart your UPSC exam preparation now and complement it with the links given below:

PSLV – Recent Developments in 2019-2020

There have been 52 launches by PSLV. The launches of 2019 and 2020 are given in the table below:

Launcher Type/Title



PSLV-C51 Amazonia-1
  • PSLV-C51 launched Amazonia-1 along with 18 co-passengers on February 28, 2021, from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota
  • Amazonia-1 is the optical earth observation satellite of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE)
  • It launched India’s Communication Satellite on 17th December 2020 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (Harikota, Andhra Pradesh)(SDSC SHAR)
  • Orbit – Geosynchronous Orbit (GSO)

Get the list of space centres and space agencies in the linked article.

  • It launched earth observation satellite along with nine international customer satellites from (SDSC SHAR) on 7th November 2020
  • Orbit – Low Earth Orbit (LEO)
  • Read about Earth Observation Satellite EOS-O1 in the linked article.
  • It launched earth observation satellite along with nine commercial satellites of Israel, Italy, Japan and the US from SDSC  SHAR on 11th December 2019
  • It was 75th launch vehicle mission
PSLV-XL/PSLV-C47 Cartosat-3
  • It launched third-generation agile advanced satellite along with 13 commercial nanosatellites (US) from SDSC SHAR on 27th November 2019
  • Orbit – Sun-Synchronous Polar Orbit (SSPO)
  • Read about Cartosat-3 in the linked article.
  • It was launched without the solid strap-on motors from SDSC SHAR.
  • It was launched on 22nd May 2019
  • It was injected in its orbit on 1st April 2019
  • 28 international customer satellites were injected too
PSLV-C44 Microsat-R
  • It launched Microsat-R and Kalamsat-V2 satellites in their designated orbits on 24th January 2019
  • It was launched from SDSC SHAR.

Increase your knowledge about the list of India Satellites from 1975 to 2022 in the linked article.

What is GSLV?

GSLV-Mk II is the largest launch vehicle developed by India. The salient features of this launch vehicle are mentioned below:

  1. It is a fourth-generation launch vehicle.
  2. It has three stages.
    • First stage – The 138-tonne solid rocket motor is augmented by 4 liquid strap-ons.
    • Second stage – One Vikas engine is used in the second stage of GSLV.
    • Third Stage – Developed under the Cryogenic Upper Stage Project (CUSP), the CE-7.5 is India’s first cryogenic engine, developed by the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre.
  3. It has four liquid-engine strap-ons.
  4. The first flight by GSLV was on 18th April 2001.
  5. The capacity of payloads:
    • It can carry 2500 kgs INSAT class of communication satellites and place it to GTO.
    • It can carry 5000 kgs heavy satellites to multiple smaller satellites in LEO.

Aspirants can read about GSLV Mk-III in the linked article. It will launch the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft.

UPSC 2023

Some more related links that can be beneficial for Science and Technology preparation for GS 3 are mentioned below:

Aditya-L1 Mission Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) 
Cartosat-2 Juno Mission
Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) ISRO’s Project NETRA
NASA and Axiom Space – Ax-1 Mission Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)
Gaganyaan Mission List of Space Centres & Indian Space Agencies


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