CHENNAI: Within weeks after achieving landmark victory by dedicating NAVIK (Navigation by Indian Constellation) to the nation, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is on course to launch its ‘maiden’ Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) later this month. The launch is tentatively scheduled for May 23. However, a final decision will be taken after the Mission Readiness Review (MRR) committee meets on May 11 under the chairmanship of BN Suresh that gives technical clearance for the launch.
It is a new technology, which ISRO scientists are trying to conquer.
Speaking to Express, P Kunhikrishanan, director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC-SHAR), Sriharikota, confirmed that all systems had arrived at the spaceport and the integration was progressing smoothly as per the schedule.
ISRO has been keeping a low profile since it is entering a new space. However, this launch is special for simple reason that it’s a first step towards realising a Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) fully re-usable vehicle that can launch satellites into orbit around earth and then re-enter the atmosphere making space missions economically viable.
It will be a major breakthrough in space exploration and space utilisation. A reusable launch vehicle is the unanimous solution to achieve low-cost, reliable and on-demand space access. It would be a Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator Hypersonic Experiment (RLV-TD HEX1) wherein the hypersonic aero-thermo dynamic characterisation of winged re-entry body along with autonomous mission management to land at a specified location and characterization of hot structures are planned to be demonstrated. This would be followed by the landing experiment (LEX), return flight experiment (REX) and scramjet propulsion experiment (SPEX).
Recently, ISRO chairman AS Kiran Kumar, delivering the annual Air Chief Marshal LM Khatre lecture in Bengaluru, said, “The RLV will be taken to a height of over 70 km and released for its re-entry into the atmosphere.” Meanwhile, a senior ISRO official said the first experimental flight did not have landing option. The vehicle will re-enter the atmosphere and drop into the sea. To a query, he said the vehicle can’t be retrieved. The RLV-TD has been configured to act as a flying test bed to evaluate various technologies, namely, hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion, he added.
What are RLVs
- A new generation of vehicles that can launch satellites into the orbit and then re-enter the atmosphere
- A Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) is the space analog of an aircraft
- It takes off vertically on the back of an expendable rocket and then glides back down like an aircraft
- During landing phase, an RLV can either land on a runway or perform a splashdown
- The main advantage of an RLV is it can be used multiple times, hopefully with low servicing costs