The successful launch of Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator from Sriharikota puts ISRO in direct competition with Elon Musk’s Space X and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin in the domain of low cost reus - able launch vehicles. The 11-tonne prototype is claimed to have cost just One billion Rupees to develop when compared to Space X’s Falcon Nine rocket which costs Four Billion Rupees to produce.
The reusable space shuttle was a one-fifth scale model of the vehicle that ISRO hopes will one day put satellites into space at rock-bottom prices. Reusable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) is one of the most technologically challeng - ing endeavors of ISRO towards developing essential technologies for a fully reusable launch vehicle to enable low cost access to space. The configuration of RLV-TD is similar to that of an aircraft and combines the com - plexity of both launch vehicles and aircraft. The winged RLV-TD has been configured to act as a flying test bed to evaluate various technologies, namely, hypersonic flight, autonomous landing and powered cruise flight. In future, this vehicle will be scaled up to become the first stage of India’s reusable two stage orbital launch vehicle.
In the experimental mission, the HS9 solid rocket boost - er carrying RLV-TD lifted off from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota at 07:00hr IST. After a successful flight of 91.1second, HS9 burn out occurred, following which both HS9 and RLV-TD mounted on its top coasted to a height of about 56 km. At that height, RLV-TD separated from HS9 boost - er and further ascended to a height of about 65km.
From that peak altitude of 65 km, RLV-TD began its descent followed by atmospheric re-entry at around Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound). The vehicle’s Navigation, Guidance and Control system accurately steered the vehicle during this phase for safe descent. After successfully surviving a high temperatures of re-entry with the help of its Thermal Protection System (TPS), RLV-TD successfully glided down to the defined landing spot over Bay of Bengal, at a distance of about 450km from Sriharikota, thereby fulfilling its mission objectives. The vehicle was successfully tracked during its flight from ground stations at Sriharikota and a shipborne terminal. Total flight duration from launch to landing of this mission of the delta winged RLV-TD lasted for about 770seconds.
In this flight, critical technologies such as autonomous navigation, guidance & control, reusable thermal prote system and re-entry mission management have been successfully validated.
RLV-TD is a series of technology demonstration missions that have been considered as a first step towards realizing a Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) fully re-usable vehicle, as a flying test bed to evaluate various technologies, namely, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion. These technologies will be developed in phases through a series of experimental flights. The first in the series of experimental flights is the Hypersonic flight Experiment (HEX) followed by the Landing Experiment (LEX), Return flight Experiment (REX) and Scramjet Propulsion Experiment (SPEX).