NEWTOWN, Conn. --- The PSLV primarily carries payloads into low-Earth orbit; however, it has successfully carried satellites, such as the GSAT-12, into geosynchronous orbit. This will make it useful for carrying smaller communications satellites, which are necessary for providing video and telecommunications services over the Indian subcontinent. The launch vehicle has played a role in India's space exploration plans. The PSLV is used to carry lunar Chandrayaan missions and Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft.
While the PSLV primarily serves the Indian market, the reliability and low price of this launch vehicle is beginning to attract international attention. Contracts for satellite launches have come from organizations in Austria, Canada, Denmark, Indonesia, Germany, Luxembourg, the U.K., and the U.S.
In addition to carrying larger satellites, like France's SPOT-7 in 2012, the PSLV has become a popular option for carrying small satellites into orbit. Its ability to carry multiple payloads was highlighted in February 2017, when a PSLV carried 104 satellites into orbit, setting a record for the most spacecraft carried on a single launch. The achievement will help the PSLV stand out in an increasingly competitive market for small satellite launch services.
Still, the PSLV will continue to face strong competition in the lightweight launch vehicle market. Launch vehicles like the European Vega compete with the PSLV. India's small launch vehicle will also face competition from new entrants such as Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne and Rocket Lab's Electron. Finally, the PSLV will compete with larger launch vehicles that can carry small satellites as secondary payloads.
However, a steady manifest from the ISRO, along with increasing contracts on the international market, puts the PSLV on sound footing. In fact, the ISRO calculates that between 2013 and 2015, it earned about $100 million in international commercial contracts. PSLV launches reached a high point in 2016 when six were conducted. In 2017 and 2018, launches declined. However, going forward, PSLV launches will likely remain between the low and high points