THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Eight years. 750 engineers. `95 crore. Scientists at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thumba, are keeping their fingers crossed as ISRO readies to take baby steps towards a Made in India space shuttle with the Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) mission next week.
If things go as planned, the RLV-TD will take to the skies on Monday from the Sathish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota (SDSC-SHAR) rigged atop a specially-designed booster rocket. Over eight years, 150 engineers have been involved in this high-profile project handled by the VSSC. Another 600 engineers - attached to various ISRO centres, National Aeronautics Laboratory (NAL), IITs and the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) - have contributed indirectly.
“We are planning for a Monday launch, depending on weather conditions,” VSSC director K Sivan, who was also the third project director of the RLV-TD project, said. The project has so far had four project directors, including the incumbent - Shyam Mohan.
Developed at the VSSC, each component in the `95 crore RLV-TD project has undergone rigorous testing, VSSC officials said. This include 120 hours of wind tunnel tests, 5000 runs of computational fluid dynamics and 1100 runs of flight simulation tests.
Billed as the first Indian ‘aircraft structure’ to fly up to Mach 5 speeds, the RLV-TD project triggered the development of several new technologies.
This included a carbon-carbon nose cap, water-proofed silica tiles, flush air data system, and a slow-burning propellant for the booster rocket.
The RLV-TD is the first of a series of missions planned by ISRO before actually attempting a full-fledged RLV.
The sub-orbital mission will see the aircraft-like structure carried to a height of 70 kms where it will detach from the booster rocket and glide back to earth. Mission objectives include validation of hypersonic thermo-dynamics and simulation of landing manoeuvres.
The technology demonstrator will splash down in the Bay of Bengal, but will not be recovered.
Mass: 1.75 tonnes
Mach No: 0-5