Indian Space Research Organisation to test its reusable RLV spacecraft
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO ) is planning the first test of its homegrown fully Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV). The RLV-TD (Technology Demonstrator) mission is currently scheduled to be sent aloft in late July or early August, according to M.C. Dathan, the Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC).
The RLV, resembling a small winged aircraft, will be launched up to an altitude of 43 miles (70 km) from atop a solid booster rocket and then released. The spacecraft will re-enter the atmosphere and travel back to Earth in a controlled descent, to be recovered from the sea.
“It will be a winged vehicle that will take off vertically like a rocket and glide back to land horizontally like a plane,” said S. Somanath, the VSSC Deputy Director.
The development of RLV is in the final stages. The spacecraft has been configured to act as a flying test bed to evaluate various technologies; namely, hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight, and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion.
“The first stage burns on solid fuel. Atop it is the space plane which will return to Earth after the flight,” said ISRO chief Kiran Kumar.
The first in the series of experimental flights is the hypersonic flight experiment (HEX) followed by the landing experiment (LEX), the return flight experiment (REX), and the scramjet propulsion experiment (SPEX).
A 2.5 mile (4 km) runway would be constructed for the RLV to make a horizontal landing in the subsequent test flights.
The RLV would be powered by an air-breathing scramjet currently under development. The first prototype of the scramjet with a 10 kg thrust is due to be tested in about one month’s time, followed by the development of a test facility for a more powerful engine.
ISRO hopes that RLV will cut satellite launch costs from $5,000 to $500 per every 2 lbs (1 kg).
“Development of RLV is a technical challenge and it involves development of cutting edge technologies. The magnitude of cost reduction depends on development and realization of fully reusable launch vehicle and its degree of reusability,” said Jitendra Singh, India’s Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office.
The test is a part of a larger plan to build a fully functional two stage to orbit (TSTO) fully re-usable vehicle.
If successful, the program would reduce the cost of space missions, making India more competitive in the launcher market.
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