Third, final landing of Pushpak gives wings to ISRO

Pushpak autonomously executed cross-range correction manoeuvres, approached the runway, and performed a precise horizontal landing at the runway centreline.
Isro’s Reusable Launch Vehicle ‘Pushpak’ lands during Sunday’s final test
Isro’s Reusable Launch Vehicle ‘Pushpak’ lands during Sunday’s final test Photo | PTI

CHITRADURGA: It was super Sunday for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as it achieved a success, for the third consecutive time, in the Reusable Launch Vehicle Landing Experiment by demonstrating the autonomous landing capability of the launch vehicle under more challenging conditions at the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR) at Kudapura in Challakere taluk of Chitradurga.

At 7.10 am, the winged vehicle successfully conducted the third and final Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Landing Experiment (LEX). The RLV LEX-03 mission demonstrated the autonomous landing capability of the RLV under more challenging release and severe wind conditions. The vehicle, Pushpak, was released from an Indian Air Force Chinook helicopter at an altitude of 4.5 km.

Pushpak autonomously executed cross-range correction manoeuvres, approached the runway, and performed a precise horizontal landing at the runway centreline.

“With the objectives of RLV-LEX accomplished, ISRO embarks into RLV-ORV, the orbital reusable vehicle,” ISRO posted on X.

Because of Pushpak’s low lift-to-drag ratio aerodynamic configuration, the landing velocity exceeded 320 kmph, compared to 260 kmph for a commercial aircraft and 280 kmph for a fighter jet.

Rudder, nose wheel help Pushpak remain stable

After the touchdown, the vehicle velocity was reduced to nearly 100 kmph using its brake parachute and later the landing gear brakes were deployed for deceleration and stoppage on the runway.

Pushpak utilises its rudder and nose wheel steering system to autonomously maintain a stable and precise ground during ground roll.

The mission, spearheaded by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), was a collaborative effort involving various ISRO centres, like SAC, ISTRAC, SDSC-SHAR, along with support from the Indian Air Force (IAF), Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE), Regional Centre for Military Airworthiness (RCMA) under the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC), National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, Indian aerospace industrial partners, Indian Oil Corporation and Airports Authority of India.

ISRO Chairman S Somanath congratulated the team for its dedication in sustaining a streak of success in such “complex missions”. J Muthupandian was the Mission Director, while B Karthik was the Vehicle Director for the mission.

VSSC Director S Unnikrishnan Nair said this consistent success bolsters ISRO’s confidence in critical technologies necessary for future orbital reentry missions. It simulated the approach and landing interface and high-speed landing conditions for a vehicle returning from space.

The advanced guidance algorithm catering to longitudinal and lateral plane error corrections, which is essential for the future orbital reentry mission, has been validated.

The RLV-LEX uses multisensor fusion including inertial sensor, radar altimeter, flush air data system, pseudolite system and NavIC. The RLV-LEX-03 mission reused the winged body and flight systems without any modification from LEX-02, ISRO’s press release stated.

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