India to build a smallsat rocket


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Capitalism in space: India’s space agency ISRO has announced that it developing a smallsat rocket expressly designed to launch cubesats and thus compete with the new smallsat rocket companies now about to become operational.

ISRO has been very successful in providing a launch platform for smallsats on its PSLV rocket, but in this case the smallsats fly as secondary payloads, dependent on the needs of the larger primary satellite. It appears that the space agency has realized that their market share in this area is now threatened by the small rockets being developed by Rocket Lab and Vector, and is therefore moving to compete.

This announcement also provides more evidence that the space industry is splitting between smaller unmanned payloads and larger manned payloads. I predict that in ten years most unmanned satellites launched to circle the Earth will be tiny and launched on tiny rockets, while simultaneously we will see a new generation of giant rockets putting manned spacecraft into orbit and beyond.

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3 comments

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “I predict that in ten years most unmanned satellites launched to circle the Earth will be tiny and launched on tiny rockets, while simultaneously we will see a new generation of giant rockets putting manned spacecraft into orbit and beyond.

    I would not bet against that. Even the US Air Force is realizing that a small number of large satellites are more vulnerable than a large number of small satellites, so they are seriously considering moving much of their current capability to future small satellite constellations.

    Considering the very large number of cubesats placed in orbit over the past three years, the first part of the prediction is close to being realized already.

  • Localfluff

    I like bigger rockets more than small rockets. Small sats replacing big sats with constellations should be able to launch en masse at once on the same big launcher. A dedicated launcher requires either a pretty valuable small sat or really low reusability costs. It better work as regularly as a space elevator using a refueled rocket engine instead of a string. Btw, last weeks FISO was about space debris. It seems a single incident today could turn this threat into a real problem.

  • Edward

    Localfluff wrote: “I like bigger rockets more than small rockets. Small sats replacing big sats with constellations should be able to launch en masse at once on the same big launcher.

    Agreed.

    Bigger rockets just have more excitement to them.

    Initial placement of constellations and replacement constellations would likely best be done on bigger rockets, one for each orbital plane. Replacement of individual satellites in the constellation would likely best be done on smaller rockets. Theoretically, a smaller rocket can be made ready for launch faster than a big rocket, thus have a faster turnaround time from order to launch. Smaller rockets should also be less expensive per launch, so launching a single satellite on a small racket should also be the less expensive choice.

    I do not see larger rockets going out of style, but I see smaller rockets coming into style.

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