ISRO To Begin Flights of Reusable Launcher Test Bed

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After a delay of three years, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is set to conduct the first trial of its winged Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) later this year.

According to ISRO’s latest annual report, for 2012-2013, a review committee has concluded that launch of RLV-TD hypersonic flight mission in September 2013 “is feasible.” The test was initially planned for 2010.

The report said ISRO expects to conduct a series of trial flights of the technology demonstrator as an initial step in the development of a fully reusable two-stage-to-orbit vehicle. The demonstrator has been configured as a flying test bed for capabilities including autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion, the report said.

The RLV-TD, featuring wings and tail fins, will be launched atop a solid-rocket booster. During early trials it will make unpowered ascents, but eventually it will be powered by an air-breathing scramjet, the report said. The RLV-TD and booster will be recovered separately, with the former landing on a runway like a plane and booster landing via parachute.

The report said development of the scramjet engine is in an “advanced stage.”