Third successful Reusable Launch Vehicle test places ISRO on course for orbital reentry missions

The ISRO has successfully conducted its third and final landing experiment of the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV-LEX3) in Karnataka.
Last Updated : 23 June 2024, 03:25 IST

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Bengaluru: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Sunday accomplished the objectives of its ambitious Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Landing Experiment (LEX) by completing the third successive and final landing test in the programme. The RLV LEX-03 mission was conducted at the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR) in Chitradurga, about 200 km from here, at 7.10 am.

ISRO is set to build on the successful experiments to develop its orbital reusable vehicle, the RLV-ORV.

ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), which led the programme, pitches RLVs as a sustainable option to accomplish low-cost, on-demand space missions.

The mission simulated the approach and landing interface and high-speed landing conditions for a vehicle returning from space, demonstrating ISRO’s expertise in critical technologies that power an RLV. It demonstrated the RLV’s autonomous landing capability under more challenging release conditions and more severe wind conditions.

The winged vehicle – Pushpak – was released from an Indian Air Force Chinook helicopter at an altitude of 4.5 km. From a release point 4.5 km away from the runway, Pushpak autonomously executed cross-range correction manoeuvres, approached the runway and performed a precise horizontal landing at the runway centreline, ISRO said.

The mission follows the successful RLV LEX-01, in 2023, and RLV LEX-02, in March 2024. For RLV LEX-03, ISRO reused the winged body and flight systems from the LEX-02 mission without modification, validating its design capability to reuse flight systems for multiple missions.

Due to the vehicle’s low lift-to-drag ratio aerodynamic configuration, the landing velocity exceeded 320 kmph, compared to 260 kmph for a commercial aircraft and 280 kmph for a typical fighter aircraft.

“After touchdown, the vehicle velocity was reduced to nearly 100 kmph using its brake parachute, after which the landing gear brakes were employed for deceleration and stop on the runway. During this ground roll phase, Pushpak utilises its rudder and nose wheel steering system to autonomously maintain a stable and precise ground roll along the runway,” ISRO said.

ISRO Chairman S Somanath congratulated the team for maintaining the success streak with a series of complex missions. VSSC Director S Unnikrishnan Nair said the success of the tests boosted ISRO’s confidence to initiate orbital re-entry missions.

Published 23 June 2024, 03:25 IST

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