SRIHARIKOTA: India on Monday successfully tested its home-grown winged reusable
launch vehicle (RLV), demonstrating its space technology prowess, a
senior official said.
"We have successfully accomplished the RLV
mission as a technology demonstrator. The lift-off was at 7.00 a.m. from
the first launch pad here," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
director Devi Prasad Karnik told IANS.
vehicle returned intact and landed on a virtual runway, plunging into
the Bay of Bengal, about 500 km away from the east coast, after a
10-minute guided flight in the atmosphere at an altitude of about 70 km
above the Earth.
The sleek 1.7-tonne RLV was latched on top of a
15-tonne rocket with a booster from the spaceport here in Andhra
Pradesh, about 80 km of Chennai on the east coast.
agency's telemetry, tracking and command network (Istrac) centre in
Bengaluru recorded the data of the vehicle's hypersonic speed,
autonomous landing and powered cruise flight using air-breathing
The maiden mission has qualified India to enter the
elite club of space-faring nations like the US (NASA), Russia (Russia),
France (European Space Agency) and Japan (Jaxa), which developed and
used RLVs for their space missions over the years.
seven-metre RLV prototype was used as a flying test bed in to evaluate
technologies the state-run space agency developed to reduce the cost of
launching satellites into the Earth's polar and geo-stationary orbits in
the next decade.
"The long-term objective of this mission is to
reduce the launch cost by 80 percent of the present cost by using a
reusable vehicle," Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) director K. Sivan
told IANS ahead of the test.
Rockets and support systems for
launching satellites and space exploration missions are made at the
space agency's VSSC at Thiruvananthapuram in southern Kerala.
agencies across the world spend on average $20,000 per kg to build and
use medium-to-heavy weight rockets to launch satellites into the Earth's
polar and geo-stationary orbits, about 36,000 km above the planet
"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 satellites," Sivan
The space agency is developing the RLV and its support
systems from the budget earmarked annually for technology development
and research and development activities.
The cost of developing the RLV technology is estimated to be about Rs.100 crore ($14 million).
the complex technology and using a reusable vehicle will take over a
decade as we have to build them with our own resources," Sivan said.
were used to navigate the vehicle at a high speed and descend after
surviving in the lower atmosphere where temperatures remain very high.
space agency will make at least two more RLV prototypes with additional
features for other tests before the final version, which will be six
times bigger than its demonstrators.
US-based billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX and Amazon owner Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin have recently conducted similar test launches.
tested its Falcon 9 rocket in December while Blue Origin's New Shepard
completed a third launch and vertical landing in April.
however, grounded its space shuttle programme in 2011 after using its
reusable vehicles like Discovery, Endeavor, Columbia and Challenger as a
space transportation system for over three decades since 1981 to launch
various missions, including International Space Station (ISS) and