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Reusable Launch Vehicle - Technology Demonstration Program. (ISRO)

ISRO to Launch Mini Space Shuttle Today to Test Reusable Rocket Technology

As NASA has shelved its space shuttles in varsities and museums in lieu of bigger and deep-space shuttles under design, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is all set to test its re-usable launch vehicle (mini space shuttle) on Monday, kicking off a 10-year reusable technology development program.

The mini space shuttle is a reusable launch vehicle demonstrator (RLV-TD) of ISRO to minimize the cost of rockets lift-off space vehicles to deploy satellites in orbit.

To be launched from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh after 7 AM in the morning on Monday, the success will demonstrate India’s indigenous technology to join the ranks of the elite club of the US, EU, Russia and Japan. The 9-metre rocket weighs 17 tonnes, including nine tonnes of solid propellants.

The 1.7-tonne winged rocket will soar up to 70km and its booster will release the 1.7-tonne aircraft-shaped RLV-TD into the lower orbit and re-enter the atmosphere of the earth, where its heat-shield protection technology will be put to test to the searing temperatures.

The RLV-TD re-usable technolgy will reduce the launch cost by 80 percent of the present cost. It is the unanimous solution to achieve low cost, reliable and on-demand space access, according to ISRO. On an average a it costs $20,000 to build and use medium-to-heavy weight rockets to launch satellites into the earth’s orbits. The current RLV-TD experiment costs Rs.100 crore.

Once the RLV-TD re-enters the Earth, ISRO’s telemetary, tracking and command network (Istrac) in Bangalore will collect the data about the vehicle’s take-off, its space function and its fall into the Bay of Bengal. The future test-flights will explore the possibility of landing the reusable vehicle at a specific location like the US Space Shuttles.

ISRO’s Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstration Program is a series of technology demonstration missions that have been considered as a first step towards realizing a Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) fully re-usable vehicle. A Winged Reusable Launch Vehicle TD will act as a flying test bed to evaluate various technologies such as hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion.

The decade-long program will be developed in phases through a series of experimental flights. The first in the series of experimental flights is the hypersonic flight experiment (HEX) followed by the landing experiment (LEX), return flight experiment (REX) and scramjet propulsion experiment (SPEX).

Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator Hypersonic Experiment (RLV-TD HEX1) wherein the hypersonic aero-thermo dynamic characterization of winged re-entry body along with autonomous mission management to land at a specified location are planned to be showcased now.

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