India’s first indigenous space shuttle Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV-TD) successfully launched from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh today. The purpose of the experiment was not to see it float but to glide and navigate from a velocity five times higher than the speed of sound onto a designated virtual runway in the Bay of Bengal some 500 km from the coast.
The RLV Technology Demonstration (RLV-TD), that is ultimately aimed at putting satellites into orbit around earth and then re-enter atmosphere, was carried up on a solid rocket motor. The nine-metre long rocket weighs 11 tonnes.
Very similar in its looks to the US space shuttle, the the double delta-winged RLV-TD being experimented is a scale model which is almost 6 times smaller than the final version.
The 6.5 m long ‘aeroplane’-like structure weighs 1.75 tonnes and will be hoisted into the atmosphere on the special rocket booster.
After launch from the Sriharikota spaceport, about 100 km from, it was glided back onto a virtual runway in the Bay of Bengal, some 500 km from the coast.
The vehicle was taken to a height of over 70 km and released for its re-entry into the atmosphere.
The RLV-TD is described as “a very preliminary step” in the development of a reusable rocket, whose final version is expected to take 10-15 years.
This is the first time ISRO is launching a winged flight vehicle.
The government has invested Rs 95 crore into the RLV-TD project.
Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) Chairman Kiran Kumar while explaining the importance of the experimental RLV said it is essentially an attempt by India to bring down the cost of making infrastructure in space.
If reusable rockets become a reality, the cost of access to space may come down by 10 times, he said.
“The RLV is a mechanism for us to bring down the cost of launch. We intend to go through a series of technology demonstration exercises, first one of it, what we call HEX-01, that is a hypersonic experiment. It is called a winged body,” Kumar said.
“Therefore, we have designed for the first time a winged body, which will come back from space. In addition, this is the first of a series of experiments and we still have a long way to go till we reach the actual RLV, which will give us a tremendous capacity in terms of launching at a very low cost,” he added.