Today – May 23, 2016 – the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has strengthened their place in the booming space industry with the successful test flight of their hypersonic space shuttle RLV-TD.
At about 7AM IST, ISRO saw its HS9 solid rocket booster lift off from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, carrying the shuttle into the atmosphere before burning out around 91.1 seconds. Both the shuttle and booster then glided to approximately 56 km, where RLV-TD then separated from the rocket and continued to climb to a height of about 65 km.
From there, the shuttle started its descent, hitting Mach 5 for atmospheric re-entry and being safely and accurately guided by the vehicle’s Navigation, Guidance and Control system. The Thermal Protection System (TPS) protected it from the high temperatures of re-entry and soon, RLV-TD successfully touched down to the defined landing spot over Bay of Bengal, a distance of about 450km from Sriharikota. Total flight duration was about 770 seconds, or 12.83 minutes.
ISRO said in their official press release: “In this flight critical technologies such as autonomous navigation, guidance and control, reusable thermal protection system and re-entry mission management have been successfully validated.”
Dr K Sivan, director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre at Thiruvananthapuram (where the RLV is being developed) noted: “There are many technology challenges that have to be overcome before we have an operational RLV. This experiment is only a small step. Nearly 80 to 87 per cent of the cost in a space launch vehicle goes into the structure of the vehicle. The costs of propellants is minimal in comparison. By using RLVs the cost of a launch can be reduced by nearly 80 per cent from the present cost.”
The flight test was supported by the Indian coast guard and the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) for mid sea wind measurements and shipborne telemetry.
More information at The Indian Express.
More photos at The Logical Indian.