September test for cheap, reusable space shuttle

September test for cheap, reusable space shuttle

India is all set for the maiden flight of its indigenously-developed space shuttle that could slash the cost of putting a satellite in space by a drastic 90 per cent.

The technological demonstration flight of the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) is scheduled for September at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) Chairman A S Kiran Kumar told reporters here.

In its maiden flight, the vehicle is expected to travel to an altitude of 100 km at five times the speed of sound—nearly 6,000 km per hour—and release the payload, he said, adding that the rocket would then be made to land in the sea.

Nasa used space shuttles extensively to launch several satellites, interplanetary probes and the Hubble Space Telescope, and to conduct experiments in orbit.

Nasa discontinued the shuttle flights, a key link to transporting astronauts to the International Space Station, in 2011.

“The September launch is just the initial one. We need to validate the concept. There are multiple experiments,” said the Isro chairman, adding that the actual RLV would take a few years to realise.

According to industry estimates, it takes about $5,000 to place a 1-kg payload in space. The RLV, once operational, will bring down the cost to $500.

“In September, the launch vehicle will make a landing in the Bay of Bengal while the ultimate attempt would be to land it on an airstrip at Sriharikota,” said Kumar.

Isro scientists have specially developed heat-resistant tiles that would form the outer cover of the vehicle. These would be able to withstand temperatures of about 1,200 degrees Celsius, experienced by shuttles while re-entering the earth’s atmosphere.

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