A revolutionary stride in space exploration is the development of reusable launch vehicles, wherein various components can be reclaimed and reused for transporting payloads from Earth’s surface to outer space.

This approach targets both rocket stages and smaller elements like engines and boosters, ultimately leading to reduced launch costs and enhanced accessibility to space. This transformation is exemplified by India’s endeavors in this realm.

Advantages of Reusable Rockets:

  • Cost Efficiency: The integration of reusable parts significantly slashes launch expenses, democratizing space access by lowering financial barriers.
  • Carbon Footprint Reduction: The substantial decrease in global warming potential emanates from the production phase, rather than the launch itself. The cut in emissions remains substantial and could only be countered by an exponential rise in launches.
  • Boost to Satellite Deployment: Reusable rockets drive the development of satellite mega-constellations for communication and Earth observation, as their reduced production costs lead to cost-effective satellite launches.
  • Environmental Preservation: Conventional launch vehicles contribute to debris accumulation in oceans; reusability curtails this waste and benefits the environment.
  • Enhanced Launch Frequency: Reusable rockets curtail the need for building new vehicles for each launch, thereby increasing launch frequency and speeding up space missions.
  • Economic Growth: The lower per-launch costs and satellite miniaturization, coupled with reusable technology advancements, are propelling the global space industry to potentially generate over $1.1 trillion in revenue by 2040.
  • Advancing Manned Missions: Reusable launch vehicles offer the potential to send manned missions and satellites into space and bring them back to Earth without subjecting them to extreme conditions.

Steps Taken by India:

  • ISRO’s Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD): Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has developed the winged RLV-TD, marking the initial stride towards a Two Stage to Orbit (TSTO) fully reusable launch vehicle.
  • Phased Technological Developments: India is pursuing progressive experimental flights for reusable launch vehicles, encompassing the hypersonic flight experiment (HEX), landing experiment (LEX), return flight experiment (REX), and scramjet propulsion experiment (SPEX).
  • Government Initiatives: The Indian government is formulating a comprehensive space policy to stimulate private sector involvement in the country’s space sector.
  • IN-SPACe Establishment: The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN–SPACe) operates as an autonomous agency under the Department of Space, facilitating and regulating space activities in India.

The concept of a circular economy extends beyond Earth’s boundaries, holding immense potential for enhancing satellite systems and even venturing into space tourism.

By adopting reusable rockets akin to airplanes, the cost of space travel can be substantially reduced, driving a paradigm shift in space exploration and fostering economic growth on a global scale. India’s progressive strides in this arena highlight its commitment to harnessing these advantages and driving innovation in the realm of space technology.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish March 22, 2024