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ISRO's Reusable Launch Vehicle Set For 2016 Trial

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The trial for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)'s reusable launch vehicle is set to be initiated in 2016. Originally planned for Dec. 28, the launch was postponed to help reduce technical slags, the ISRO chairman said.

The ISRO scientists previously experienced some technical difficulties, prompting them to move the launch date to April 2016. The launch could have been set for February but because there were other launches already planned, the ISRO decided on moving it two months later.

Low-Cost Access To Space

The Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) was developed by Thumba-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC).

The development of this vehicle will reduce the cost of access to space in the future. Though it is a single-stage rocket, it possesses a solid propellant stored in casing and it can be reused to reduce the cost of launches, which is a major hindrance in promoting space exploration by many countries.

The development of a reusable launch vehicle will help many countries achieve low-cost and reliable space access.

"ISRO will complete the design in 2016. The aim is to bring back the vehicle from the orbit and test if this process is economically viable. The objective is to access space with best minimum cost possible," ISRO Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said.

"We still have a long way to go and have taken baby steps in this direction," he added.

The RLV-TD is a scaled prototype of the Avatar space shuttle in India and it can return to Earth after performing its mission. If the project will be successful, this can pave the way to ISRO being the pioneer in reusing a launch vehicle.

Goals And Expectations

When launched, the RLV-TD will go up to around 70 kilometers or 43 miles and go back to Earth through the help of a space plane. It is expected to land on the Bay of Bengal to be retrieved. More test flights will be conducted, and when successful, a reusable launch vehicle will finally be used from 2025 onwards.

The Reusable Vehicle-Technology Demonstration Program is a series of missions that will help develop a Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) fully reusable vehicle. Test flights can help test and evaluate space technologies including hypersonic flight, powered cruise flight, hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion and autonomous landing.

The program will include a lot of experiments including hypersonic flight experiment, landing experiment, return flight experiment and the scramjet propulsion experiment. The RLV-TD project was started in January 2012 and now, it is undergoing flight integration before it is moved to Bengaluru for acoustic testing and then to Sriharikota in preparation for the launch in April 2016.

India is not far behind other countries in terms of space exploration. In fact, 2015 was a great year for ISRO for its achievements all year round. The organization launched the following: a Mars orbiter, a multi-wavelength space observatory, and a Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D6), which carried a GSAT-6 communication satellite into orbit.

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