India to test reusable launch vehicle technology on Monday

Bengaluru, May 22 (IANS) India will test on Monday a reusable launch vehicle technology (RLV) space agency ISRO developed to reduce cost of firing rockets to deploy satellites in orbit, a senior official said.

“A mini-rocket with the winged reusable launch vehicle demonstrator (RLV-TD) on its top will lift-off during the launch window between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Monday, depending on wind and weather conditions,” Indian Space Research Organisation director Devi Prasad Karnik told IANS here.

A successful demonstration of the indigenously-developed technology will qualify India to enter the elite club of space-faring nations like the US, Russia and Japan, which have developed and used RLVs for their space missions over the years.

The 9-metre rocket with a mass weight of 17 tonnes, including nine tonnes of solid propellants, will take off vertically from ISRO’s spaceport at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, about 80 km northeast of Chennai.

The ISRO has designed and built the 1.7-tonne winged RLV-TD as a flying test bed to evaluate technologies developed to reduce the cost of launching rockets for carrying satellites into polar and geo-stationary orbits.

“The mini-rocket will soar up to 70km where its booster will release the 1.7-tonne aircraft-shaped RLV-TD into the lower orbit and re-enter the atmosphere for returning to the earth, with its heat-shield protecting it from searing temperatures,” Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) director K. Sivan told IANS.

Rockets for launching satellites and space explorations are made at VSSC at Thiruvananthapuram.

“The exercise will enable us to collect data on hypersonic speed, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight using air-breathing propulsion,” Sivan said.

The long-term objective of this mission is to reduce the launch cost by 80 percent of the present cost by using a reusable vehicle.

Space agencies worldwide spend on average $20,000 to build and use medium-to-heavy weight rockets to launch satellites into the earth’s orbits.

The first technology demonstrator will conduct the hypersonic flight experiment, followed by landing test, return flight experiment and scramjet propulsion test, using the 15-tonne (mass) rocket, with 9-tonne propellants (solid fuel as booster.

“The 10-minute flight will demonstrate the hypersonic and aero-thermo dynamics of the winged re-entry vehicle, with autonomous mission management to land after passing through very high temperatures during the re-entry,” Sivan said.

The space agency’s telemetary, tracking and command network (Istrac) in Bengaluru will collect the data from the vehicle spanning vertical take-off, its release in the space by the rocket booster for manoeurves and its plunge into the Bay of Bengal.

The vehicle, being a “dummy”, will not be recovered from the sea this time.

“In subsequent test flights, we will attempt to land the reusable vehicle at a specific location on land like an aircraft does on a runway so that we can again use it for launching more satellites,” Sivan said.

The space agency is developing the RLV and its support systems from the budget earmarked annually for technology development and research and development.

The cost of developing the RLV technology is estimated to be about Rs.100 crore.

“Developing the complex technology and using a reusable vehicle will take a decade (10 years) as we have to build them with our own resources,” Sivan added.

Besides the US (NASA) and Russia (Roscomos), Japan (Jaxa) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have developed the RLV technology.



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