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ISRO All Set to Launch Re-usable Space Shuttle to Minimise Cost of Future Launches

isroIndian space agency ISRO is gearing up to give final touches to a re-usable space shuttle to be launched in July, riding high on its successful re-entry capsule experiment in December 2014.

“A small aeroplane-shaped vehicle would be launched from here (Sriharikota) sometime during the second half of July,” confirmed Satish Dhawan Space Centre director M Y S Prasad in a telephonic interview with IANS.

Weighing 1.5 tonne, the reusable launch vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) will bring down the cost of individual launch vehicles every time, especially in placing lesser-weighing satellites. With this, the present cost of placing 1 kg satellite will come down from $5,000 to one-tenth of its cost to $500, according to a quick estimate.

The first launch will be an unmanned space shuttle which will be lifted off by a single solid rocket booster attaining 5 times the speed of sound with nine tonnes of propellants reaching skies at an estimated height of 70 kms and then re-enter earth before landing on the waters in the Bay of Bengal.

“The descent speed would be controlled through the fins on the machine. In order to protect the equipment from friction heat when it comes back, necessary protective tiles are fixed,” an ISRO official told IANS.

However, ISRO is still working on its recovery plan by landing it on a runway similar to the US space shuttles but it may require to be manned mission, which ISRO is still working on.

The Bangalore-based Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will use the launch to demonstrate the Hypersonic aerodynamics, Avionics system, Thermal protection system, Control system and mission management for future design changes to be made to the space shuttle.

Development of Reusable Launch Vehicles poses a real challenge for the ISRO and involves development of many cutting-edge technologies and the cost factor depends on development and realization of the degree of reusability of the vehicle, Minister in PMO, Dr. Jitendra Singh, told in a written reply in the Lok Sabha early this year.

Since ISRO has already developed and test-launched its next generation launch vehicle GSLV MkIII, capable of launching 4 ton class communication satellites in Geo-synchronous Orbit, ISRO hopes it would bring down the cost of satellite launches with the re-usable launch vehicle, said the minister.

The RLV-TD is otherwise important in view of the planned manned mission to the moon by ISRO and it will also enhance the space exploration capabilities of India, which is fast catching up with the major-five club of Russia, US, China, Europe and Japan in terms of space launches after its successful Mangalyaan or Mars Orbiting Mission in September 2014.

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