India’s Space Research Organization is in the final countdown stage of building and launching its very own version of a ‘space shuttle’. The size of a sports utility vehicle, India’s engineers have created a winged reusable launch vehicle which will be used 10 times (if reusable technology succeeds) as a solution to reducing the cost of launching satellites to $2,000 per 4410 pounds.
This Reusable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) will take off from India’s space port at Sriharikota in the eastern state of Andhra Pradesh on the coast of the Bay of Bengal.
The 6.5-m-long spacecraft, which has delta wings, weighs 1.75 tons and it will be hoisted into the atmosphere on a special rocket booster powered using a solid fuel. The first stage will hoist the RLV-TD experiment to about 43.5 miles into the atmosphere from where the descent will begin. The test launch will use a vehicle that will get destroyed upon landing on a “virtual runway” in the Bay of Bengal.
During the descent phase, small thrusters will help the vehicle glide back onto the virtual runway, reports NDTV.
One key technology scientists at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center have developed is very lightweight heat-resistant silica tiles that are plastered on the underbelly of the RLV-TD so that it can withstand high temperatures as it returns to earth’s dense atmosphere after its journey through near vacuum in space. This flight will test the capability of the vehicle to survive at re-entry at speeds higher than that of sound, and hence it is called a hypersonic experiment (HEX).