DARPA Seeks to Fly Experimental Satellite on Indian PSLV Booster

PSLV C38 mission launches (Credit: ISRO)

Frustrated over delays with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, DARPA is considering launching an innovative experimental satellite on India’s PSLV rocket, SpaceNews reports.

Jeremy Palmer, program manager for DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, told attendees at the Milsatcom USA conference that officials are hoping to launch the eXperiment for Cellular Integration Technology (eXCITe) satellite during the second half of fiscal year 2018, i.e., from April to September 2018.

The eXCITe spacecraft consists of 14 small satlets aggregated together into a single payload weighing 155 kg. The satlets, which are supplied by NovaWurks, have autonomous capabilities and are capable of operating individually or being aggregated into larger, more capable satellites.

eXCITe was originally scheduled to fly as a secondary payload aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. It would have been deployed from a Spaceflight-supplied Sherpa payload dispenser, which aggregates smaller secondary payloads.

However, repeated slips in SpaceX’s launch schedule required Spaceflight to seek alternative rides to space for payloads that would have been deployed by the Sherpa dispenser.

DARPA would need a U.S. government waiver to fly eXCITe on the PSLV. The government has been granting an increasing number of waivers to American satellite manufacturers who say there is a shortage of domestic launch opportunities.

U.S. launch companies have pushed back agains the waivers, saying India’s PSLV and GSLV launchers are subsidized by the nation’s space agency, ISRO. A number of U.S. companies are developing launch vehicles specifically aimed at the small satellite market, but none has yet made a succesful flight to orbit.



Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Part 2 of 2

There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.

USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

Part 1 of 2

The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.


ISRO Chairman Departs on High Note

K Radhakrishnan

ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan has retired, ending his five-year tenure as head of India’s space agency on a high note following the successes of Mars Orbiter Mission and the inaugural launch of the GSLV Mark III rocket.

Indian media are reporting that Shailesh Nayak, secretary in the ministry of the earth sciences, has been given the responsibility of running ISRO until a replacement for Radhakrishnan is named in about a month.

The resignation will allow Prime Minster Narendra Modi, who was elected in May, the opportunity to appoint a new chairman for the space agency.

Indian media report that Radhakrishnan’s term in office was supposed to expire in August, but he was given a four-month extension that allowed him to preside over the launch of the first GSLV Mark III rocket in December.

Three Launches, SpaceShipTwo Flight Test Set for Next Week

SpaceShipTwo, ready for its closeup. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
SpaceShipTwo, ready for its closeup. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

A trio of orbital launches by SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Corporation and ISRO will kick off the new year during the week ahead. Scaled Composites is also scheduled to conduct the third powered flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo on Jan. 9.


The Launch Weeks Ahead

SpaceShipTwo, ready for its closeup. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
SpaceShipTwo, ready for its closeup. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

A trio of orbital launches by SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Corporation and ISRO will kick off the new year during the first week of January. Scaled Composites is also likely to conduct a third powered flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo by Jan. 10.


China Gets Busy Holiday Launch Season Off to a Good Start

A Long March 3-B rocket lifts off with China's Chang'e-3 lunar rover. (Credit: CAST)
A Long March 3-B rocket lifts off with China’s Chang’e-3 lunar rover. (Credit: CAST)

UPDATE: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch has been shifted to Tuesday evening.

China has kicked off a busy month with the successful launch of the Chang’e-8 lunar rover mission. There are 15 launches on the manifests of the world’s rocket companies in December. If all missions are completed and none are added, there will be 85 orbital launches for the year.

SpaceX is the next to go on Tuesday evening, with the company hoping its third attempt to launch the SES-8 communications satellite is a charm.  The launch window opens at 5:41 p.m. EST, and SpaceX will webcast the attempt.

The company is hoping to get one more launch in by the end of 2013 on Dec. 20 with the Thaicom 6 satellite as the payload. Some other notable launches scheduled for December include:

  • Antares/Cygnus: Orbital Sciences first commercial cargo delivery to the International Space Station (Dec. 17);
  • Soyuz 2-1v:  The first flight of Russia’s “light” version of the venerable booster (Dec. 23);
  • GSLV/GSAT 14:  India will make a re-flight of a cryogenic engine that failed to fire during its inaugural mission in April 2010 (TBD);
  • Long March 4B/CBERS 3: China will launch a Earth resources satellite jointly developed with Brazil (Dec. 10);
  • Atlas V/Delta IV: These two ULA military launches will bring the company’s total to 12 for the year (Dec. 5 & 12);



Launch Vehicle

Launch Site

Nation/Company /Agency





Falcon 9





Atlas V





Delta IV



GPS 2F-5





Cygnus 2


Falcon 9



Thaicom 6






Inmarsat 5







Soyuz 2-1v



AIST & Calibration Spheres





Express AM5



Long March 3B






Long March 4B





Long March 3B



Tupac Katari


Long March 4B



Gaofen 2




Satish Dhawan









For all the latest space news,
please follow Parabolic Arc on Facebook and Twitter.

ISRO Delays GSLV Launch Until December After Fuel Leak

GSLV1ISRO Mission Update

The launch of GSLV-D5 (with Indian Cryogenic Stage), scheduled for 16:50 hrs on August 19, 2013, had to be called off due to a leak observed in the UH25 Fuel system of the Liquid Second Stage, during the last lap of the countdown.

At the time of calling off the Countdown, the GSLV Vehicle was loaded with 210 tons of liquid and cryogenic propellants. About 750 kg of UH25 Fuel had leaked out, leading to contamination of the area around the launch pad.


ISRO Scrubs Crucial GSLV Launch Due to Fuel Leak

GSLV1The quality control problems that have plagued India’s GSLV launch vehicle re-emerged on Monday as ISRO was forced to scrub a crucial launch after a fuel leak was discovered. ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan made the announcement:

“Leaky proponents observed in the second stage. We need to make an assessment of the cause of the leak in GSLV-D5 vehicle,” the ISRO chief said.

“We will announce a new date for the launch of GSLV- D5 satellite,”” he added, suggesting that getting the GLSV-D5 back on steam will take time.

The launch, which will place a communications satellite in orbit, is a major test of the nation’s domestically produced cryogenic third stage. The inaugural launch of the engine failed on April 15, 2010.

This would have been the first GSLV launch in nearly three years. The rocket put a satellite into the Bay of Bengal after going out of control on Christmas Day 2010.

The GSLV has been plagued by problems over the years. with two successes, one partial success and four failures since 2001.

ISRO to Try Again With Domestically Produced Cryogenic Upper Stage

GSLV1If at first you don’t succeed,  spend three years re-engineering and re-testing anything and everything and then try, try again.

That’s the story of ISRO’s experience with developing a cryogenic upper stage, an advanced technology mastered by only a handful of the world’s space powers. On August 19, the Indian space agency will launch its second domestically produced cryogenic stage, capping off a three-year effort to recover for its first failed attempt.

On April 15, 2010, the first and second stages of the GSLV rocket fired nominally. However, the cryogenic upper stage engine fired for only .5 seconds before the fuel pump failed. The premature cutoff sent the GSAT-4 spacecraft to a watery grave at the bottom of the Bay of Bengal.


India to Try Again With Cryogenic Upper Stage After Long Gap

Most rockets take about nine minutes to put their payloads into low Earth orbit, going from a dead stop on terra firma to 17,500 miles per hour.

In the case of India’s GSLV rocket, it takes several years longer. That’s the typical interval between launch attempts. You then have to add on a couple of more years to account for all of the GSLV’s launch failures. Of seven launches over nearly 12 years, India’s largest rocket has notched only two successes and one partial success. The last fully successful flight occurred in September 2004.

But, ISRO is, if nothing else,doggedly persistent. In April, the Indian space agency will attempt to launch a GSLV rocket fitted with its second domestically produced cryogenic upper stage. The launch will take place exactly three years after the turbo pump on the first homemade cryogenic engine malfunctioned, sending the GSAT-4 communications satellite into the Bay of Bengal. That failure came after 17 years of work on cryogenic technology.


India Shoots for Mars Amid Controversy

Mars in opposition. (Credit: STScI)

With its Chandrayaan-II moon mission on hold due to the lack of reliable rocket to send it there, ISRO has decided to its its first spacecraft to Mars next year.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is expected to launch a Mars Orbiter as early as November next year with a 25kg scientific payload.

The Mars mission, which will study its atmosphere, will be launched by an extended version of ISRO’s warhorse rocket –the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).


India Looks to Private Sector as 100th Mission Looms

ISRO officials are planning to commercialize parts of its space program and add a new launchpad as the space agency prepares for its 100th mission next week.

India’s workhorse rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which has completed 20 consecutively successful launches under the eagle eye of ISRO, is one such technology that the agency is hoping to hive off to private players. Today, about 80% of the vehicle is put together with parts supplied by the private industry. If K Radhakrishnan, the current chairman of ISRO and a manager trained at the Indian Institute of Management at Bangalore has his way, then the entire vehicle itself could well be made and launched by private players.


Ex-ISRO Officials Praise Chinese Human Launch, Rue Lost Opportunity

By Douglas Messier

Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

While the Chinese celebrate the launch of a three-member crew to the Tiangong-1 space station, two former chairman of India’s space agency ISRO are looking on with both admiration and regret. As China’s program has moved slowly but steadily forward, India’s plans for human space missions have slipped from around 2016 into the early to mid-2020s.

India’s top space scientists praised China’s maiden mission of manned docking of its space lab even as New Delhi’s own human space flight programme seems to have lost momentum.

“It’s a wonderful thing that has happened,” ex-Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation, U R Rao told PTI here. “Essentially, they are making sure that they are going ahead systematically with manned mission programme”. …

He said India has not started any manned mission programme at all. “We have to have much larger and much more powerful launch vehicle,” Rao said.