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Heaviness of Rockets

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October 26, 2022

Why in news?

The ISRO’s LVM3 M2/OneWeb India-1 mission carried almost 6 tonnes of payload into lower-earth orbit, the most that any ISRO mission has delivered into space till date.

What is LVM3- M2?

  • LVM3-M2 is the commercial satellite mission of NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), a Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE) under the Department of Space.
  • This mission is being undertaken as part of the arrangement between NSIL and OneWeb Ltd, a U.K. based company.
  • The LVM3 weighing around 644 tonne carried 36 satellites weighing about 5.7 tonne.
  • OneWeb in partnership with ISRO and NSIL demonstrated its commitment to provide connectivity across India by 2023.
  • This launch represents more than 70% of OneWeb’s planned 648 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite fleet that will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity worldwide.
  • Launch Vehicle Mark 3 (LVM3) is the heaviest rocket of ISRO.
  • Other heavier rockets - Ariane of Europe, Falcon Heavy of SpaceX, Long March of China, etc.

Salient features of the Mission

  • First commercial mission of LVM3
  • First multi-satellite mission with 36 OneWeb Satellites onboard
  • First launch of LVM3 to LEO
  • First Indian rocket with 6 ton payload
  • First NSIL Mission with LVM3
  • First OneWeb Mission with NSIL/DoS

What rockets does India have now?

  • India currently has three operational launch vehicles
    • Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV
    • Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle or GSLV Mk-II
    • Launch Vehicle Mark-3 or LVM3
  • In addition, ISRO has been working on a reusable launch vehicle (RLV).
  • PSLV - The PSLV has been the most commonly used since 1993.
  • It has carried as many as 53 successful missions and only 2 flights have failed.
  • GSLV-MkII - The GSLV-MkII rocket has been used in 14 missions, of which four have ended in failures.
  • LVM3 - The LVM3 has flown five times and has never disappointed.

What are the constraints?

  • Tyranny of the rocket equation- The size of a launch vehicle is dictated by
    • The destination in space it is headed towards
    • The kind of fuel mix that is being used (solid, liquid, cryogenic)
    • The size of the payload
  • The choice of any two of these variables places severe restrictions on the flexibility of the third, that is popularly referred to as the “tyranny of the rocket equation”.
  • Gravity till LEO- Most of a rocket’s energy is burnt in travelling to the lower earth orbit because the force of gravity is the strongest here.
  • Gravity of the destination - If a space mission is headed towards any celestial body, more energy would be expended compared to simply attaining a space orbit.
  • Efficiency of the fuel - Most modern-day rockets use multiple sets of fuels to power the different stages of the flight to optimise the results.

What innovations can fulfill the objectives of future missions?

  • The rockets can make multiple trips, carrying components of larger structures that can be assembled in space, similar to International Space Station being built.
  • The other is the possibility of the use of resources available in situ on the Moon and Mars.



  1. The Indian Express | Heaviness of rockets
  2. ISRO | LVM3-M2 / OneWeb India-1 Mission
  3. NSIL | New Space India Limited


Quick facts

Launch Vehicle Mark 3 (LVM3)

  • Launch Vehicle Mark 3 (LVM3) is the heaviest rocket of ISRO.
  • LVM3 was earlier called Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III).
  • The name of the vehicle is changed from GSLV to LVM because the rocket will not deploy the satellites in the geosynchronous orbit.
  • In 2014, the GSLV-Mk-III was named LVM-3 as it launched the Crew module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) into space.


  • GSLV Mk III is a three stage vehicle with two solid strap-on motors, one liquid core stage and a cryogenic upper stage.
  • It is a medium-lift launch vehicle primarily designed to launch communication satellites into geosynchronous orbit.
  • GSLV Mk III has the capability to launch 4000 kg payload into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) and 8000 kg payload into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
  • GSLV Mk III carried India’s second lunar mission Chandrayaan-2 and will be used to carry Gaganyaan, the first crewed mission under Indian Human Spaceflight Programme.

New Space India Limited (NSIL)

  • New Space India Limited (NSIL) is a commercial arm of ISRO.
  • Its mandate includes
    • Owning satellites for earth observation and communication
    • Building satellites and launching them as per demand
    • Providing launch services for satellite belonging to customer
    • Building launch vehicles and satellites through Indian industry
    • Space based services related to earth observation and communication satellites on commercial basis
    • Technology transfer to Indian industry
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