The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is aiming to carry out landing experiment (LEX) which will be a critical component of the Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstration (RLV-TD) programme.
It will be the second in the series of such experimental flights for the RLV-TD programme.
In January 2012, the design of ISRO’s reusable launch vehicle was approved by the "National Review Committee" and clearance was granted to build the vehicle.
The vehicle was named "Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator" (RLV-TD). ISRO aims to bring down the cost of payload delivery to low Earth orbit by 80% from existing $20,000/kg to $4,000/kg.
The first reusable spacecraft to reach orbit was the Space Shuttle (in 1981), which failed to accomplish the intended goal of reducing launch costs to below those of expendable launch systems.
During the 21st century, commercial interest in reusable launch systems has grown considerably, with several active launchers.
The RLV-TD successfully completed its first atmospheric test flight on 23 May 2016, which lasted for 770 seconds and reached a maximum altitude of 65 kilometres (40 mi).
It was designed to evaluate various technologies, and development of the final version is expected to take 10 to 15 years.
The fully developed RLV is expected to take off vertically like a rocket, deploy a satellite in orbit, return to Earth, and land on a runway.
What is RLV-TD technology?
RLV-TD is India's first uncrewed flying testbed developed for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)'s Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstration Programme.
It is a scaled down prototype of an eventual two-stage-to-orbit (TSTO) reusable launch vehicle.
Reusable launch vehicle:
A reusable launch system is a launch system that allows for the reuse of some or all of the component stages. To date, several fully reusable suborbital systems and partially reusable orbital systems have been flown.
A launch system includes the launch vehicle, launch pad, vehicle assembly and fuelling systems, range safety, and other related infrastructure.
About the Experiment
LEX constitutes the second in the series and subsequent missions include a return flight experiment and a scramjet propulsion experiment.
RLV-LEX involves taking an unmanned, winged prototype to an altitude of about 2.3 km to 2.4 km on a helicopter.
The prototype will be released 3.7 km away from the airstrip and it must travel the distance autonomously, gain velocity, maintain control and come in like any typical aircraft,touching down with the rear wheels first.
Currently, ISRO employs expendable rockets such as the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) for space missions.
The height of the prototype has been reduced to maximise velocity.
Cost effective: Cheaper access to space is what makes an RLV attractive.
The RLV-TD programme comprises a series of experimental missions aimed at making India's dream of owning a reusable, two-stage-to-orbit (TSTO) vehicle.
Push the space technology: Forced to put off missions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ISRO is aiming to step up the pace in 2022.
Around ten missions are planned this year, including four flights of the PSLV, and the RLV-LEX.
Other related programmes
The maiden flight of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle by ISRO.