The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) today tested it’s first reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator RLV-TD at 7 am from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre. The two stage to orbit (TSTO) launch was assisted by with a booster rocket, HS-9. The winged 6.5 metre long and 1.75 ton space plane is designed to fly at hypersonic speeds and this test is called the Hypersonic Flight Experiment (HEX-01).
The testing included the booster rocket assisting the RLV to a height of about 50 km and the space plane then climbing another 20 km. At 70 Km’s the RLV begins its descent and re-enters the earth’s atmosphere at a hypersonic speed of about 5.7 Mach. The RLV was not self powered and is a dummy design for demonstrating the feasibility of the technology. The space plane was guided back to a virtual runway in the Bay of Bengal. In subsequent tests, ISRO plans to equip it with an undercarriage to enable it to land on a runway, possibly at space port Sriharikota.
ISRO called the test as success soon after the launch.
“Relaunch technology can be supplemented with Scramjet engine technology and the nation will benefit a lot,” says Padmashri Dr. Prahlada Rama Rao who has worked on a Scramjet engine as the Director of Defence Research & Development Laboratory (DRDL), the missile development laboratory of the DRDO. “Relaunch and reentry technology have commonalities. DRDO has perfected re-entry technology for it’s Agni missile program,” he added.
The cost of developing the RLV technology is estimated to be about Rs.100 crore (about $15 million).