India's first reusable space shuttle RLV-TD launched

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The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) joined the race to develop reusable launch vehicle capable of sending spacecraft into orbit and returning to the earth’s surface like aeroplanes by successfully conducting the maiden test flight of a Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD)  at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

The experimental mission 

In maiden launch mission an HS9 solid rocket booster lifted the RLV-TD from its launch pad to a height of 56 km where the RLV TD separated from the rocket and climbed to a height of 65 km. 

After After launch RLV-TD glided back onto a virtual runway in Bay of Bengal and re-entered the atmosphere after reaching a height of over 70 km 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.

However 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.

Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD)

RLV-TD is a winged reusable launch vehicle that is capable of launching a payload into space more than once. This contrasts with expendable launch systems, where each launch vehicle is launched once and then discarded.

RLV-TD has been been configured to act as a flying testbed to evaluate various technologies, including hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight.

It was launched using a nine-ton solid rocket motor (SRM) which is designed to burn slowly to accommodate the vertical lifting of winged body. It has a length of 6.5 meter and weighs around about 1.75 tonnes.

It was built by a team of 600 scientists over five years at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram and the government has invested Rs. 95 crore in the project.  

Significance : Once the technology is developed completely the launch vehicle can  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 thus cut down the huge cost by 10 times.

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