A rocket carrying the Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Sunday.
The RLV-TD, a winged vehicle similar in appearance to the U.S. Air Force’ s X-37B, separated from the rocket and flew to a peak altitude of 65 kilometers and speed of Mach 5 before gliding to a splashdown in the Bay of Bengal.
India’s space agency ISRO declared the test flight a success. The RLV-TD is the first test of an eventual full-fledged RLV that ISRO hopes to develop by 2030.
This vehicle, testing its flight characteristics at hypersonic speeds, had no main propulsion, and there were no plans to recover, let alone reuse, the vehicle. [The Hindu]
NASA’s asteroid sample return spacecraft arrived in Florida Friday to prepare for a September launch. A C-17 aircraft ferried the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from the Lockheed Martin facility in Colorado where it was built to the Kennedy Space Center. The spacecraft will begin preparations there for a Sept. 8 launch on an Atlas 5. OSIRIS-REx will travel to the near Earth asteroid asteroid Bennu, studying the asteroid and collecting samples for return to Earth in 2023. [SpaceNews]
The British government may be abandoning a competition for a spaceport in favor of a licensing model. A letter Friday from the UK Space Agency and Department for Transport, sent to various airports in the country bidding to be selected as a spaceport, stated that the government will instead “create the regulatory conditions for any suitable location that wishes to become a spaceport.” Previously, five sites in the country were competing to be selected as a spaceport. The new approach, which appears similar to the launch site licensing system used in the U.S., has not been formally announced by the British government. [The Herald (Scotland)]
SpaceX is preparing for another Falcon 9 launch, and landing attempt, this week. A Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch the Thaicom 8 satellite from Cape Canaveral, with liftoff scheduled for 5:40 p.m. Eastern Thursday. That launch will also feature another attempt to land the first stage on a ship at sea, similar to a landing during the May 6 launch of another geostationary communications satellite. [Florida Today]
The first Long March 7 launch vehicle is being assembled for launch late next month. The rocket, shipped from the Chinese mainland earlier this month, is now at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre on the island of Hainan. It is scheduled for launch in late June, carrying a scaled-down prototype of a future Chinese crew vehicle. The launch will be the first for both the Long March 7 as well as the Wenchang spaceport. [gbtimes]
An X-37B spacecraft has now spent more than a year in orbit on a classified mission. Friday marked the first anniversary of the Atlas 5 launch of the military spaceplane on its fourth orbital mission. The vehicle is carrying an experimental electric thruster and a materials science experiment, but the Air Force has not disclosed what other payloads, if any, are on board the vehicle. Previous X-37B flights lasted up to 675 days. [Spaceflight Now]
A space shuttle external tank made a journey across Los Angeles Saturday. The tank, designated ET-94, left Marina del Rey shortly after midnight local time, arriving at the California Science Center about 18 hours later. ET-94 arrived by sea from the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans last week. The tank will be visible to the public at the museum while it is restored and eventually mated to the shuttle Endeavour, already at the museum, and two solid rocket boosters. [Los Angeles Times / collectSPACE]
A Japanese company wants to fly a satellite to create artificial meteor showers. Star ALE is developing a microsatellite that will contain 1000 “micro-meteors” that can be released on command. The micro-meteors will create artificial meteor showers over designated areas in an array of colors. The company believes such displays could have both entertainment value and scientific benefits. The company is working to launch its first satellite in 2018. [Forbes]