14. India’s Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV): Everything you need to know



India has successfully tested a Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) launched from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, capable of launching satellites into the orbit, and then re-entering into the atmosphere. RLV is regarded as the space shuttle of India. The ‘space shuttle’ operated by NASA is partly reusable low Earth orbital spacecraft system run in the context of the program of Space Shuttles.

What’s the significance of Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV)?

Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV)

  • RLV is the foremost solution to attain reliable, low cost, and on—demand space access.
  • Indian space shuttle or RLV-TD making has taken five years and the government had invested Rs. 95 crore in the project.
  • This flight, however, will test the vehicle’s capability to survive a re-entry at speeds higher than that of sound.
  • Reducing the cost of launching satellites into orbit is through recycling the rocket or make it reusable.
  • ISRO scientists believe that they could reduce the cost by as much as 10 times if reusable or recyclable technology succeeds. Hence, this will bring it down to $2,000 per kg from the present $20,000 per kg.

NASA’s space shuttle programme

Nasa positioned its space shuttle programme in 2011 and that too after using its reusable vehicles like Endeavor, Discovery, Columbia and Challenger for over three decades to launch several missions, such as the International Space Station (ISS) and the Hubble telescope.

India’s Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) and Hypersonic flight experiment

India’s launch of its first indigenous space shuttle RLV-TD is the outcome of the tiresome efforts of Indian scientists.

  • ISRO scientists had tested the RLV Technology Demonstrator (TD), in the first experiment of its kind known as the hypersonic flight experiment.
  •  It was about 10 minutes mission from liftoff to splashdown.
  • The aim of the experiment is to help the shuttle glide over a virtual runway in the Bay of Bengal, that is situated 500 km from the coast.
  • The RLV-TD is not likely to be recovered from the sea (Bay of Bengal) during this experiment as it is hoped that the vehicle will disintegrate on impact with water as it is not designed to float.
  • Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) weighed about 1.7 tons.
  • The 6.5-meter long Re-usable Lau
  • The special booster or the first stage is driven by a solid fuel which hovers into the atmosphere from where the descent began the RLV-TD prototype at about 70 km. During the descent process, the vehicle was aided by small thrusters in the landing field.
  • The final version will take at least 10-15 years to get ready.

List of India’s launchers:

  1. SLV – Historic
  2. ASLV – Historic
  3. PSLV – Operational
  4. GSLV – Operational (Read about the launch of GSLV D5)
  5. Sounding Rockets – Operational
  6. LVM (GSLV Mark 3) – Future

Types of India’s space crafts

  1. Communication Satellites
  2. Earth Observation Satellites
  3. Navigation Satellites
  4. Scientific Exploration Satellites
  5. Experimental Satellites
  6. Small Satellites
  7. Student Satellites

Major Missions

  1. Mars Orbiter Mission
  2. LVM3-X (CARE)
  3. GSAT-16 (using cryogenic engine)
  4. PSLV-C27/IRNSS-1D (navigation satellites)
  5. PSLV C37 (104 satellites).

Practice question:

  1. Elaborate the significance of Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV).
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