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ISRO’s Reusable Launch Vehicle Autonomous Landing Mission


Recently, the Indian Space Research Organisation and its partners successfully demonstrated a precise landing experiment for a Reusable Launch Vehicle at the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR), Chitradurga, Karnataka.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. ISRO’s RLV TD Project
  2. How old is the RLV project?
  3. How advanced are RLV technologies globally?

ISRO’s RLV TD Project

  • ISRO is developing a fully reusable launch vehicle to enable low-cost access to space.
  • The winged RLV-TD will be used to develop technologies like hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, return flight experiment, powered cruise flight, and Scramjet Propulsion Experiment.
  • The RLV-TD will be scaled up to become the first stage of India’s reusable two-stage orbital (TSTO) launch vehicle in the future.
  • ISRO’s RLV-TD looks like an aircraft with a fuselage, nose cap, double delta wings, and twin vertical tails.
  • In 2016, the RLV-TD was sent into space using a rocket powered by a conventional solid booster engine and traveled at a speed of Mach 5 before splashdown in the Bay of Bengal.
  • The crafting of parts and selection of materials for the RLV-TD is very complex and demands highly skilled manpower with the use of many high technology machinery and test equipment.

How old is the RLV project?

  • One of the first trials of an RLV was announced by ISRO as far back as 2010, but was put off due to technical reasons. Another was hinted at in 2015 but was again grounded over technical issues.
  • ISRO’s RLV development program took a backseat at the agency as much of the attention in recent years was focussed on the development of the heavy lift Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and its high-end version, the GSLV-Mk III, to enable ISRO to break into the lucrative market for launching large communication satellites weighing over 2,000 kg.
  • Finally, the first trial of the RLV-TD was conducted on May 23, 2016.

How advanced are RLV technologies globally?

  • Reusable space vehicles have been in existence for a long time with NASA space shuttles carrying out dozens of human space flight missions.
  • The use case for reusable space launch vehicles has revived with the private space launch services provider Space X demonstrating partially reusable launch systems with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets since 2017.
  • SpaceX is also working on a fully reusable launch vehicle system called Starship.
  • Several private launch service providers and government space agencies are working on developing reusable launch systems in the world alongside ISRO.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024