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Sunday, 22 May 2016


The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) made history with the launch of it's indigenous 'space shuttle' which is fully 'Made-in-India'. In March this year, the integration of the space shuttle parts with electronic tests was done. A mini-rocket with the winged reusable launch vehicle demonstrator (RLV-TD) on its top lifted-off majestically. ISRO has designed and built the 1.7-tonne winged RLV-TD as a flying test bed to evaluate technologies developed to reduce the cost of launching rockets for carrying satellites into polar and geo-stationary orbits.

The 9-metre rocket with a mass weight of 17 tonnes, including nine tonnes of solid propellants, lifted off vertically from ISRO's spaceport at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh state. The mini-booster rocket soared up to 70 km where it released the 1.7-tonne aircraft-shaped RLV-TD into a lower orbit and re-entered the atmosphere on its return journey back to the earth, and as planned the heat-shield protected the vehicle from the searing temperatures during the re-entry regime.

The long-term objective of this mission is to reduce the launch cost by 80 percent of the present cost by using a reusable vehicle. Space agencies worldwide spend on average $20,000 to build and use medium-to-heavy weight rockets to launch satellites into the earth's orbits.

The first technology demonstrator conducted the hypersonic flight experiment, it will be followed by a landing test and return flight experiment and scramjet propulsion test, using the 15-tonne rocket, with a 9-tonne solid propellant booster.

The 10-minute flight demonstrated the hypersonic and aero-thermo dynamics of the winged re-entry vehicle, with autonomous mission management to land after passing through very high temperatures during the re-entry phase. The test will enable ISRO to collect data on hypersonic speed, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight using air-breathing propulsion.

In subsequent test flights, the agency will attempt to land the reusable vehicle at a specific location on land like an aircraft does on a runway for reuse. Developing the complex technology and using a reusable vehicle for actual application will take over a decade.

The vehicle, being a "dummy", will not be recovered from the sea this time.

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