The Indian Space Resource Organisation (ISRO) had another success on its hands after a PSLV-XL launch vehicle lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on 7 December 2016. Lift off occurred at 0454 GMT.
While the ISRO owned and operated 1,235 kg Resourcesat 2A remote sensing satellite always was the launch’s main payload, there were also four other small research spacecraft due to fly: IITMSat, NIUSat, the Max Valier Sat and Venta 1. In the event their mission orbital needs were not matched to the orbit the flight was going to and they were left off the launch.
After a few early failures, the PSLV family has posted very long run of successful launches, with this flight being the latest. While it has been long known that launch vehicles usually get more reliable with experience, the “Nirvana Trend” of an eventual zero (or near zero) failure rate in Western launch vehicles (but not others), was discovered by Dr Stuart Young and named by David Todd. Both were working as space analysts at Seradata’s predecessor, Airclaims at the time.
Of course, since then, even some non-Western launch vehicles such as the PSLV have caught up with Western launch vehicles and now show this trend. As such PSLV now aptly, given the name’s Buddhist and Hindu origin, also displays the “Nirvana” trend. It has flown 37 times and not failed since flight four.
Note also that the PSLV’s sibling, the GSLV 1 and 2, despite basically being rearranged PSLV technology, has yet to achieve consistently good reliability, although its last two flights have faired better.
As an aside, Dr Stuart Young eventually went back to astrophysics and led a research team at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), New York, which proved by observation that vertically launched rotating winds from a supermassive black hole’s accretion disc fuels a quasar and governs the formation of galaxies.