4 important Indian space exploration milestones in 2022

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India Space Missions 2022: The year that went by was a truly momentous one for space exploration. Not only did we witness NASA complete the Artemis 1 mission to put humanity back on the Moon, but we were also treated to unprecedented views into the universe by the James Webb Space Telescope. 2022 also saw India bolster its credentials as a spacefaring superpower.

The Indian Space Research Organisation marked its first entry into commercial satellite launches using its Launch Vehicle Mark III (LVM3) rocket, earlier known as the GSLV-MK3. It also completed the maiden flight of its Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), but it was a bittersweet experience, as the rocket injected three satellites into the wrong orbit due to a sensor failure, meaning the mission was only a partial success.

Private space technology companies in India also had a great year. Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace’s Prarambh mission saw India’s maiden launch of a privately-built satellite vehicle. Chennai-based Agnikul Cosmos successfully completed the test-firing of its Agnikul launch vehicle, the world’s first single-piece 3D-printed rocket engine. Here’s a list of the four most important moments in Indian space exploration in 2022.

Maiden flight of ISRO’s SSLV

ISRO’s first launch of the SSLV satellite was an important milestone for the organisation. Small satellites deployed in a low-Earth orbit have become increasingly popular over the years. According to Allied Market Research, the global small satellite market will reach $13.7 billion by 2023.

The SSLV was designed with this market in mind. It uses three solid fuel-based stages and a liquid fuel-based velocity trimming module (VTM) to place the satellites in orbit with the quick turnaround time required for commercial launches. According to ISRO chairperson S Somanath, the vehicle can be integrated in two days and tested in two days. After that, rehearsal and launch can be conducted in the next two days, meaning that launch using the vehicle can be carried out within a week.

On August 8, this year, the SSLV-D1 mission successfully blasted off. But this was followed by silence from the mission control room due to some data losses in the terminal phases of the mission. It was then discovered that the satellites were placed into an elliptical orbit instead of a circular one, rendering them useless.
Also read |Artemis 1 to James Webb Space telescope pics: The biggest moments in space exploration in 2022

“SSLV-D1 placed the satellites into 356 km x 76 km elliptical orbit instead of 356 km circular orbit. Satellites are no longer usable. Issue is reasonably identified. Failure of a logic to identify a sensor failure and go for a salvage action caused the deviation. A committee would analyse and recommend. With the implementation of the recommendations, ISRO will come back soon with SSLV-D2,” said a statement from ISRO at the time.

Written by Sethu Pradeep
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New Delhi | Updated: December 27, 2022 15:50 IST
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Space Exploration | Space Exploration in India | Indian Space ExplorationSpace Missions 2022 India: In parallel with a rising global trend, Indian space technology startups have also risen up to the challenges of space exploration. (Image credit: Composite image, AP, Reuters, Skyroot Aerospace, Agnikul Cosmos)
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India Space Missions 2022: The year that went by was a truly momentous one for space exploration. Not only did we witness NASA complete the Artemis 1 mission to put humanity back on the Moon, but we were also treated to unprecedented views into the universe by the James Webb Space Telescope. 2022 also saw India bolster its credentials as a spacefaring superpower.

The Indian Space Research Organisation marked its first entry into commercial satellite launches using its Launch Vehicle Mark III (LVM3) rocket, earlier known as the GSLV-MK3. It also completed the maiden flight of its Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), but it was a bittersweet experience, as the rocket injected three satellites into the wrong orbit due to a sensor failure, meaning the mission was only a partial success.

Private space technology companies in India also had a great year. Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace’s Prarambh mission saw India’s maiden launch of a privately-built satellite vehicle. Chennai-based Agnikul Cosmos successfully completed the test-firing of its Agnikul launch vehicle, the world’s first single-piece 3D-printed rocket engine. Here’s a list of the four most important moments in Indian space exploration in 2022.
Maiden flight of ISRO’s SSLV

ISRO’s first launch of the SSLV satellite was an important milestone for the organisation. Small satellites deployed in a low-Earth orbit have become increasingly popular over the years. According to Allied Market Research, the global small satellite market will reach $13.7 billion by 2023.
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The SSLV was designed with this market in mind. It uses three solid fuel-based stages and a liquid fuel-based velocity trimming module (VTM) to place the satellites in orbit with the quick turnaround time required for commercial launches. According to ISRO chairperson S Somanath, the vehicle can be integrated in two days and tested in two days. After that, rehearsal and launch can be conducted in the next two days, meaning that launch using the vehicle can be carried out within a week.

On August 8, this year, the SSLV-D1 mission successfully blasted off. But this was followed by silence from the mission control room due to some data losses in the terminal phases of the mission. It was then discovered that the satellites were placed into an elliptical orbit instead of a circular one, rendering them useless.
Also read |Artemis 1 to James Webb Space telescope pics: The biggest moments in space exploration in 2022

“SSLV-D1 placed the satellites into 356 km x 76 km elliptical orbit instead of 356 km circular orbit. Satellites are no longer usable. Issue is reasonably identified. Failure of a logic to identify a sensor failure and go for a salvage action caused the deviation. A committee would analyse and recommend. With the implementation of the recommendations, ISRO will come back soon with SSLV-D2,” said a statement from ISRO at the time.
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The mission was carrying EOS-02, an Indian Earth Observation Satellite that weighs 145 kilograms, and AzaadiSat, which was made by 750 school girls to celebrate 75 years of independence under the SpaceKidz India initiative. The AzaadiSat weighed eight kilograms.

Despite rendering these satellites useless, the mission is still termed partial success, because it helped the space agency test many new elements that were incorporated into the rocket, including the hardware, propulsion stages, aerodynamic designs, new generation electronics, control systems, separation systems and the entire architecture of the rocket.
LVM3’s first commercial mission

It was not all disappointment for ISRO in 2022. The space agency’s heaviest rocket, the LVM3, successfully injected 36 broadband satellites for the UK-based satellite internet company OneWeb. The first commercial launch for LVM3 was a complex mission that marked many firsts for ISRO.

It was also the first time LVM3 carried multiple satellites and launched them into orbit. The 5.8-tonne payload was also the heaviest ISRO had ever launched. LVM3 took off after midnight on October 23 from the second launchpad of the Sriharikota spaceport and successfully placed 16 satellites into orbit, while also ensuring they won’t collide. Before this, LVM3 had three successful flights—two development flights and the launch of Chandrayaan 2.

The importance of LVM3’s successful streak of launches goes beyond just establishing India as a serious commercial satellite launch player. ISRO is currently working on human-rating the launch vehicle and plans to carry Indian astronauts into space during the Gaganyaan mission. The Gaganyaan mission will make India the fourth country to launch crewed spacecraft, after the United States, Russia and China.
Vikram S launch

Skyroot Aerospace completed the first private rocket launch of the country when the company’s Vikram-S rocket lifted off from the Sriharikota launchpad at 11.30 AM on November 18. The launch was a sub-orbital one, with the spacecraft travelling slower than orbital velocity. This meant the spacecraft reached outer space, but did not remain in orbit around the Earth. The spaceflight lasted less than five minutes.

Vikram-S is a single-stage solid fuel rocket designed to test systems and processes for the company’s Vikram-1 rocket launch, scheduled for 2023. Vikram-1 is a much larger launch vehicle that will be used to conduct orbital flights. The series of rockets is named after Vikram Sarabhai, the founder of the Indian space program

The engine used in the launch pays homage to another Indian space scientist—APJ Abdul Kalam—and is named “Kalam-80”. It was one of the crucial components monitored by Skyroot during the launch. The core structure of Vikram-S was made using carbon composites, and the thrusters used for spin stability were 3D-printed.

The launch of Vikram-S paves the way for Indian private space companies to take on some of the work ISRO has done in the past, like satellite launches. This is part of a larger global trend, with companies like SpaceX, Rocket Lab and Blue Origin conducting multiple successful launches of their own rockets.
First 3D-printed single-piece rocket engine

Skyroot is not the only trailblazing Indian space tech startup. In November this year, Chennai-based Agnikul successfully completed the test firing of Agnilet—the company’s 3D-printed rocket engine—at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center in Thiruvananthapuram. According to the company, Agnilet is the world’s first single-piece 3D-printed rocket engine. It is designed to carry Agnibaan—the company’s planned small satellite launch vehicle currently under development—and payloads of up to 300 kilograms to a low-Earth orbit.

Agnilet is a “semi-cryogenic” rocket engine powered by a mixture of liquid kerosene at room temperature and supercold liquid oxygen. In a November interview with indianexpress.com, Agnikul, co-founder and CEO, explained that “3D printing is a sweet spot for launch vehicles” because it can be used to manufacture multiple iterations of complex and customised designs, speeding up the research and development process.

In November, the company also inaugurated India’s first private launchpad and mission control centre at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. The launchpad is designed to accommodate and support liquid-stage controlled launches, and is four kilometres away from the mission control centre. Agnikul plans to launch the Agnibaan rocket from this facility in the

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