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  India   ‘Swadeshi space shuttle’ test a success

‘Swadeshi space shuttle’ test a success

Published : May 24, 2016, 5:39 am IST
Updated : May 24, 2016, 5:39 am IST

ISRO successfully launches India's first indigenously made space shuttle- the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) in Sriharikota. (Photo: PTI)

ISRO successfully launches India's first indigenously made space shuttle- the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) in Sriharikota. (Photo: PTI)

India on Monday launched a scale model of a reusable space shuttle using a rocket that will, in its final avatar, launch satellites at a fraction of the current cost.


In its first technology demonstrator test, the “swadeshi space shuttle”, called RLV-TD (Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator), took off atop a booster rocket from the spaceport at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, at 7 am and landed in the defined spot in Bay of Bengal after 770 seconds.

The entire mission cost about Rs 95 crore. In its final form, both the space shuttle and its booster rocket will be reused for subsequent missions. In current practice, the rocket that launches a satellite is a write-off. The last rocket that Isro launched, a PSLV, cost Rs 130 crore. The space shuttle, when fully operational, is expected to cut down that cost.


Isro said the mission was a “very preliminary step” in the development of a reusable rocket, whose final version is expected to be available in 10 to 15 years. The final stage will be a fully re-usable vehicle, currently being called “Two Stage To Orbit” which will be six times bigger than the one launched on Monday.

Unlike the test model that landed in the Bay of Bengal, the TSTO will land on the ground at Sriharikota. The Indian shuttle joins the race for rocket-launched vehicles in which SpaceX of tech tycoon Elon Musk and Blue Origin of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos are in the running.

Hailing the successfulmission, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet, “Launch of India’s first indigenous space shuttle RLV-TD is the result of the industrious efforts of our scientists. Congrats to them.” He added: “The dynamism & dedication with which our scientists & @isro have worked over the years is exceptional and very inspiring.”


The 6.5-metre winged space shuttle, weighing 1.75 tonnes, or about the same as an SUV, separated from the booster 91.1 seconds after takeoff, at a height of about 56 km, and ascended to 65 km. From there, the RLV-TD began its descent at around Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.

After surviving the high temperatures during re-entry with its thermal protection system, the shuttle glided down to the defined landing spot in the Bay of Bengal at a distance of about 450 km from Sriharikota.

The vehicle was tracked during flight from ground stations at Sriharikota and a ship-borne terminal. The mini shuttle acted as a test bed to evaluate various technologies, including hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion, Isro said.


The flight tested autonomous navigation, guidance and control, a reusable thermal protection system and re-entry mission management.

Location: India, Andhra Pradesh, Nellore