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What is PSLV, ISRO’s workhorse rocket that can ‘write poems in orbit’

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What is PSLV, ISRO’s workhorse rocket that can ‘write poems in orbit’

Context- The PSLV is one of ISRO’s most reliable vehicles, having launched hundreds of satellites with only three failures or partial failures since 1993. Over the years, various improvements have been made to it, making it a stand-out satellite carrier.

(Credits- ResearchGate)

Launch vehicles are meant only to deposit satellites into space, after which they become useless. They either burn up in space or add to the ever-increasing concern of space debris. The PSLV, however, is now technologically advanced enough to have one component that can stay on in space to carry out the research after it has delivered its satellite.

First, why do satellites need launch vehicles?

  • The launch vehicle rockets have powerful propulsion systems that generate the huge amount of energy required to lift heavy objects like satellites into space, overcoming the gravitational pull of the earth. Satellites, or payloads as they are often called, sit inside the rocket and are ejected once they reach near their intended orbit in space.
  • Most satellites have small propulsion systems and carry small amounts of fuel, because they encounter very little drag, or force, in outer space. What they do carry are the instruments needed for the scientific work for which they are being sent into space.

What is PSLV?

  • PSLV is the most reliable rocket used by ISRO to date. Its first launch was in 1994, and it has been ISRO’s main rocket ever since.
  • Apart from Indian satellites, it also carries satellites from other nations into space, like in the recent mission, where it carried payloads from Singapore. The reason for this is that apart from being reliable, the PSLV is also more affordable than the launch vehicles of many other countries.
  • Besides, the vehicle successfully launched two spacecraft, Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and Mars Orbiter Spacecraft in 2013, that later travelled to Moon and Mars respectively.

The various components of PSLV

  • Rockets have several detachable energy-providing parts. They burn different kinds of fuels to power the rocket. Once their fuel is exhausted, they detach from the rocket and fall off, often burning off in the atmosphere due to air-friction, and getting destroyed.
  • Only a small part of the original rocket goes till the intended destination of the satellite. Once the satellite is finally ejected, this last part of the rocket either becomes part of space debris, or once again burns off after falling into the atmosphere.
  • PSLV has four parts — PS1, a solid rocket motor augmented by 6 solid strap-on boosters; PS2, a storable liquid rocket engine, known as the Vikas engine; PS3, a solid rocket motor that provides the upper stages high thrust after the atmospheric phase of the launch; and PS4, the uppermost stage consisting of two Earth storable liquid engines.
  • As technology evolves, the effort is to make the various parts of a rocket reusable. PSLV’s PS4 has been able to achieve this.

Enter POEM

  • As part of POEM, PS4, instead of being discarded, is now utilised as a “stabilised platform” to perform experiments.
  • POEM has a dedicated Navigation Guidance and Control (NGC) system for attitude stabilisation, which stands for controlling the orientation of any aerospace vehicle within permitted limits.
  • The NGC acts as the platform’s brain to stabilise it with specified accuracy. It derives its power from solar panels mounted around the PS4 tank, and a Li-Ion battery.

Syllabus- Prelims; Current Affairs;

Source- Indian Express

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