By July or August, India may develop its space vehicle, also known as space shuttle. Isro’as 1.5 tonne vehicle resembling an aircraft will make its maiden flight from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.
Officially known as reusable launch vehicle (RLV-TD), it is undergoing final preparations at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram. Its primary role will be to reduce cost of access to space. The cost of placing 1kg of object in space is $5,000, which scientists are hoping will reduce to $500.
As of now, there are no plans to use it for a manned mission. The spacecraft will initially be carried by a single solid rocket booster with nine tonnes of propellants.
After lift off, it will zoom to an altitude of 70km and then execute a soft landing in the Bay of Bengal. The duration of this sub-orbital mission is expected to be around 900 seconds.The anticipated moment will be when the vehicle re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere at five times the speed of sound.
An Isro engineer said, “To prevent the vehicle from getting damaged (due to heat), its nose has been protected by carbon-carbon and there are 600 heat-resistant tiles placed around the vehicle. These tiles will be able to withstand a temperature to 1,200 degrees Celsius.” The space-qualified tiles have been procured from Tamil Nadu.
Interestingly, after it splashes down, the vehicle will sink to the bottom of the sea and for now there are no plans to recover it. “We have kept other options open. If there is a change of thinking at the last moment, we may seek the help of Indian Navy and Coast Guard to recover it,” the engineer said.
The mission will evaluate technologies such as hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion, which will be developed in phases through a series of experimental flights