India Launches Reusable Space Shuttle – Tech Times

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India successfully launched an unmanned model space shuttle, demonstrating its capability in developing reusable spacecraft.

The scale model of the country’s first-ever swadeshi or indigenous space shuttle – dubbed as Reusable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) – was launched from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh at 7 a.m. of May 23. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) proclaimed it “mission accomplished” 20 minutes post-liftoff.

The scale model was expected to fly about 43 miles into the atmosphere prior to coming down at sea.

“Launch of India’s first indigenous space shuttle RLV-TD is the result of the industrious efforts of our scientists. Congrats to them,” tweeted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Various countries and private entities – including SpaceX of Elon Musk, Blue Origin of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and countries like Europe, Russia, and Japan – have been competing to design alternative reusable spacecraft since NASA halted its space shuttle program back in 2011.

The reusable technology is aimed at slashing the cost of space exploration by around 10 times, with current technology costing around $20,000 to send a kilogram in space.

India’s 1.75-ton (about 3,500 pounds) spacecraft flew to a 70-kilometer (about 43 miles) altitude, and then engaged in a free-gliding flight starting with an initial velocity five times that of sound. It afterwards landed in the Bay of Bengal some 500 km (approximately 311 miles) from the launch site.

It was the first time that ISRO flew a winged body and returned it to land on a makeshift runway. Future tests will involve an undercarriage to make the shuttle potentially land at Sriharikota.

While not expected to survive the flight, the craft was designed to let ISRO collect important data on matters such as hypersonic speed and autonomous landing.

The model was developed in the last five years with a budget of one billion rupees or $14 million. The Indian space agency plans two more of those prototypes before the final version, which will be around six times bigger and will take off around 2030.

The success of ISRO’s space shuttle project cements the position of India as among the very few countries worldwide with their own space shuttles.

Its Mars Orbiter was the cheapest Mars mission to date with just around $74 million in total expenditure. It marked the first time that a country reached the red planet on its first attempt.

India Launches Reusable Space Shuttle – Tech Times