India has successfully launched an experimental spacecraft that it hopes will form the basis of its own re-usable space shuttle. On Monday (23rd May), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully conducted the maiden test flight of a space shuttle- the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV). This reusable launch vehicle technology was demonstrated, at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. ISRO said after the successful launch the test flight, this becomes India’s first winged body aerospace vehicle flying in hypersonic flight regime. This is also India’s First Indigenously Made Space Shuttle and is the first of the three tests before the arrival of the original shuttle that will much bigger (40 meters).
The spacecraft , including satellites , when developed completely will substantially help in cutting costs on launch vehicles 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. ISRO said they have accomplished RLV-TD, which is around the size of a minibus, which was lifted to an altitude of 70 km before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, exposing it to temperatures of up to 2,000 Celsius. An HS9 solid rocket booster lifted the RLV-TD to a height of about 56 km where it separated from the rocket and climbed to a height of 65km before automatically spearing itself back for a landing at 450 km away from Sriharikota space station, in the Bay of Bengal. One-sixth the size of the planned shuttle, this test flight was also designed to asses if the shuttle could glide and navigate at speeds of up to 6000 kmph, before attempting a landing on the sea in the Bay of Bengal. From the ground station at Sriharikota and a ship terminal the RLV vehicle was tracked at the time of flight. The launch vehicle RLV-TD took about 12.8 minutes from the launch to landing mission.
K. Sivan, Director of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, said that for the Monday launch they had three objectives,
• 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.
The test mission is an important step towards developing a full-scale, reusable shuttle to send satellites into space. The shuttle is not expected to come into service for some 15 years but ISRO hopes the technology will reduce costs and made access to space more affordable. ISRO is also planning further tests of the technology, including the supersonic scramjet engine it hopes will power the craft.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated scientists on the successful launch of India’s first indigenously made space shuttle- RLV. “Launch of India’s first indigenous space shuttle RLV-TD is the result of the industrious efforts of our scientists. Congrats to them,” he said in a tweet.
It is definitely a ‘proud achievement’ for ISRO and India, and like the Chandrayan mission, it is expected to beat the other countries in COSTING – approx. 1/10 will be the cost to use the Full-Blown version of this experiment. Until now only the US, Russia, Europe and Japan have successfully launched space shuttles. Very few people must be aware that ISRO catches people/scientist YOUNG. They conduct a parallel test to IITs on All-INDIA basis, and select bright students right after 12th, and bring them to their university like campus where the student goes right upto PhD by combo of hands-on working +course ware! Once again, Congratulations to ISRO for taking India to new heights with the successful launch of first ever 'Made in India' Space shuttle.