The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched the first technology demonstrator of indigenously made Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) on May 23 from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The RLV is capable of launching satellites into Earth’s orbit and then re-enter the atmosphere. The reusable space launch vehicle will help ISRO to cut down on costs for future space missions. ISRO will carry out several tests, but after at least a decade, towards the making of the RLV and Monday’s test was one of those. US, Russia and Japan have already developed their own reusable rocket technology in the past. (See Pics: ISRO RLV-TD India's first reusable space shuttle)
What is ISRO’s RLV-TD Programme?
In order to realise a Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) fully reusable vehicle, the Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstration Programme (RLV-TD), which is a series of technology demonstration missions, has been put in place. A scaled model of the Winged Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) has been developed by the ISRO scientists in order to carry out experiments. The size of the RLV-TD is one fifth of that of the fully reusable vehicle. Various technologies including hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion will be tested using this model. (Also Read: India all set to launch its own 'space shuttle' on Monday: Know all about ISRO's RLV-TD)
Monday’s technology demonstration
The HS9 solid rocket booster lifted off the RLV-TD from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, at 7am on Monday. A successful flight of 91.1 seconds, then occurred the HS9 burn out. Then both HS9 and RLV-TD mounted on its top coasted to a height of 56km. The HS9 booster then released the RLV-TD, which then further reached the height of about 65km.
After atmospheric re-entry at around Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound), the RLV-TD began its descent. It then came down smoothly to the landing spot over Bay of Bengal, which is 450km away from Sriharikota. The total flight duration from launch to landing was about 770 seconds. (Also Read: Things you need to know about the desi spacecraft Reusable Launch Vehicle)
The series of experimental flights are called the hypersonic flight experiment (HEX). This test was the first in the series. Next is the landing experiment (LEX), and then the return flight experiment (REX) and scramjet propulsion experiment (SPEX). The Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator Hypersonic Experiment (RLV-TD HEX1) will be the big test. The RLV-TD HEX1 will not only test the re-entry of the Reusable Launch Vehicle but also check its capability to autonomously land at a specific location.
The importance of Reusable Launch Vehicles
As the name suggests, the purpose of the Reusable Launch Vehicles is to take satellites and other payloads to space and then land back to Earth so that it can be reused several times. The main purpose is to reduce the cost of future space missions. Elon Musk, the chief executive officer of SpaceX, which is also developing reusable launch vehicles last year said, “If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred. A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.” (Also Read: ISRO gears up for maiden launch of space shuttle. Facts you need to know about the RLV-TD)