Taking baby steps towards developing a reusable launch vehicle capable of sending spacecraft into orbit and returning to the earth’s surface, the Indian Space Research Organisation on Monday successfully tested the country’s first winged-body aerospace vehicle.
The technology, when developed completely, would launch spacecraft, including satellites, into space and re-enter the earth’s atmosphere withstanding extreme pressure and heat conditions and land in an intended spot, helping to cut costs on launch vehicles substantially.
“We had three objectives for Monday’s launch: To test the characterisation of the aero-thermo dynamics of hypersonic flights; to test the autonomous mission management of hypersonic vehicles; and to test the necessary re-entry technology for the vehicles,” K. Sivan, Director of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, said.
A booster rocket, carrying a winged-body aerospace vehicle (RLV-TD), took off from the spaceport at Sriharikota, some 100 km from Chennai, at 7 a.m. It climbed for about 90 seconds before its burnout. Coasting to an altitude of 56 km, where it was separated from the booster, RLV-TD inclined further to 65 km, an ISRO release said. From an altitude of 65 km, the vehicle made a re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere at Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound) and steered by its navigation, guidance and control system for safe descent, it glided down to the defined landing spot in the Bay of Bengal, 450 km from Sriharikota.
The total flight duration was about 12.8 minutes.
All you need to know about the project
|»||India’s space port at Sriharikota on the coast of the Bay of Bengal in Andhra Pradesh will witness the launch of the indigenously made Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD). After the launch, it will be glide back onto a virtual runway in the Bay of Bengal.|
|»||The RLV-TD is unlikely to be recovered from sea during this experiment as it is expected that the vehicle will disintegrate on impact with water since it is not designed to float.|
|»||The purpose of the experiment is to help the shuttle glide over a virtual runway in the Bay of Bengal, situated 500 km from the coast.|
|»||India’s frugal engineers believe the solution to reducing cost of launching satellites into orbit is to recycle the rocket or make it reusable.|
|»||Scientists at ISRO believe that they could reduce the cost by as much as 10 times if reusable technology succeeds, bringing it down to $2,000 per kg.|
|»||K. Sivan, director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, says, “These are just the first baby steps towards the big Hanuman leap.”|
|»||The final version will take at least 10-15 years to get ready.|
|»||The special booster or the first stage is powered using a solid fuel and it will hoist the RLV-TD prototype to about 70 km into the atmosphere from where the descent will begin.|
|»||During the descent phase, small thrusters will help the vehicle navigate itself to the landing area.|
|»||The making of the Indian space shuttle or RLV-TD has taken five years and the government has invested Rs. 95 crore in the project. This flight will test the capability of the vehicle to survive a re-entry at speeds higher than that of sound.|