India tests reusable spacecraft demonstrator


The India Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced on Monday May 23 that it had successfully launched its reusable launch vehicle – technology demonstrator (RLV-TD) winged body spacecraft on its first test flight from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on the east coast of India.

Mounted atop an HS9 solid rocket booster, the RLV-TD (a scaled-down version of India’s under-development Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV)) reached an altitude of 65km before beginning its descent to earth. During reentry it reached Mach 5 as it glided to a splashdown in the Bay of Bengal, about 450km from the launch site. Indian space program officials said the flight successfully demonstrated technologies including autonomous navigation, guidance and control, as well as a reusable thermal protection system. During its flight the vehicle was tracked from ground stations at Sriharikota and a shipborne terminal. The flight duration was almost 13 minutes.

The RLV-TD flown on Monday will not be recovered from the sea, but the 1.75 metric ton vehicle design will undergo successive test flights during the coming years to demonstrate its water landing capability. ISRO must also continue development of an air-breathing scramjet engine that will power the vehicle all the way into space. The goal of the program is to cut launch costs by a factor of 10.

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