THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Technical snags have forced the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to put off the first test on a scaled-down prototype of India’s futuristic space shuttle.
Sources said on Sunday that the Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), under development at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) here at Thumba, developed a minor leak during a test, forcing the ISRO to postpone the mission. The ambitious RLV-TD, the first small step to building a ‘space shuttle’ which can return to earth after accomplishing space missions, is likely to be delayed up to April 2016.
ISRO had originally planned a mid-2015 launch for the RLV-TD. It had later been postponed to January 2016.
VSSC Director Dr K Sivan said that some of the components had to be re-assembled. ‘’If things go as planned, we can launch the mission in the first week of February. Otherwise, the test will be conducted in the first week of April,’’ he said.
ISRO has three missions lined up for January and March, which is another reason why the RLV-TD could be delayed up to April. ISRO plans to launch the three remaining IRNSS satellites - which will complete the seven-satellite Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System - by March 31. The first of the three is to be launched on January 20, and the remaining two in March using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
“The missions will be launched from the first launch pad, which is also to be used for the RLV-TD,’’ Sivan said.
The RLV-TD consists of a winged space plane-like part rigged atop a booster rocket. The rocket will go up to a height of 70 km and release the space plane portion which will glide down to earth.
In the first test, the space plane will glide into a landing in the Bay of Bengal. RLV-TD will be the first of a series of tests planned by ISRO before venturing to build the actual vehicle. A reusable launch vehicle will cut mission costs considerably for ISRO.