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India tests native reusable vehicle

another Milestone:(Above) The Indian Space Research Organisation’s space shuttle prototype reusable launch vehicle (RLV-TD) taking off from the launch centre in Sriharikota on Monday; and (right) the vehicle being transported to the launch pad.— Photos:V. Ganesan & AFP  

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.