India successfully tested its first-ever swadeshi or indigenous space shuttle today as its scale model – the Re-Usable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator or RLV-TD – was launched from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh at 7 am. Nearly 20 minutes after its lift-off, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced, “mission accomplished”. The unmanned RLV-TD has reportedly been made entirely in India at a cost of Rs. 95 crore.
The 1.7-tonne winged shuttle has been built in an attempt to reduce the cost of manufacturing infrastructure in space by 10 times, ISRO Chairman Kiran Kumar told Press Trust of India in a interview. “All the space infrastructure what we have to build for various activities, our ability significantly increases because the overall cost comes down,” he said, adding that the satellites would also become cheaper.
The manufacturing of RLV-TD started more than 10 years ago at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram, NDTV reported. It “has been configured to act as a flying test bed to evaluate various technologies, namely, hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion,” explains ISRO on its website.
“All going well, especially the weather, we will send on May 23 the 9-meter rocket, with a winged reusable launch vehicle demonstrator (RLV-TD) on its top into the atmosphere, about 70 km from the earth, and bring it back to test the technology we have developed indigenously,” VSSC director K Sivan had told Indo-Asian News Service on Friday.
The flight duration of the first space shuttle will be 10 minutes and the space agency’s telemetary, tracking and command network (Istrac) in Bengaluru will monitor the vehicle’s data. This shuttle will plunge into the Bay of Bengal and not be reused as it is just a “dummy.”
“In subsequent test flights, we will attempt to land the reusable vehicle at a specific location on land like an aircraft does on a runway so that we can again use it for launching more satellites,” IANS quoted Sivan as saying.
“We will be launching from Sriharikota, and the plane like winged body will land in the ocean, in the Bay of Bengal. That is the first one, but then ultimately, the objective will be this winged body will come and land on the Sriharikota island,” Kumar told PTI.