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RLV Technology Demonstration Programme

RLV Technology Demonstration ProgrammeReusable Launch Vehicle—Technology Demonstration Programme is a series of technology demonstration missions that has been conceived by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as a first step towards realising a Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) re-usable launch vehicle.

For this purpose, a winged reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator (RLV-TD) has been configured. The RLV-TD will act as a flying test bed to evaluate various technologies like powered cruise flight, hypersonic flight, and autonomous landing using air-breathing propulsion. Application of these technologies would bring down the launch cost by a factor of 10.[2] This project has no connection with the Avatar spaceplane concept by India's DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation).

Development:

In 2006 the Indian Space Research Organisation performed a series of ground tests to demonstrate stable supersonic combustion for nearly 7 seconds with an inlet Mach number of 6.

In March 2010, ISRO conducted the flight testing of its new sounding rocket: Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV-D01), weighing 3 tonnes at lift-off, a diameter of 0.56 m, and a length of ~10 m. It carried a passive scramjet engine combustor module as a test-bed for demonstration of air-breathing propulsion technology.

In January 2012, ISRO announced that a scaled prototype, called Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), was approved to be built and tested. The aerodynamics characterization on the RLV-TD prototype was done by National Aerospace Laboratories in India. The RLV-TD is in the last stages of construction by a Hyderabad-based private company called CIM Technologies.

By May 2015, engineers at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station were installing thermal tiles on the outer surface of the RLV-TD, so it can withstand the intense heat during atmospheric reentry. This prototype weighs around 1.5 tonnes and would fly up to an altitude of 70 km. The RLV-TD will be mounted on top of a solid booster HS9 with 1 m diameter and launched beyond the atmosphere, after which the RLV-TD will separate and reenter the atmosphere while traveling through the hypersonic regime. The rocket is expendable while the RLV would glide back to Earth and fall in Bay of Bengal as there are no airstrips that are 5 km long at suitable location in India that could be used to land such aircraft. ISRO has made detailed reports to construct an airstrip greater than 4 km long in the Sriharikota island and it will be built in the near future.

ISRO has tentatively slated a flight to test scramjet engine from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre for June 2016, on board the "Advanced Technology Vehicle" flight 2 (ATV-D02) a modified sounding rocket. The scramjet engine will be integrated to the RLV at a later stage of development.

Hypersonic Experiment (HEX):

 

The Hypersonic Flight Experiment, or HEX, was the first test flight in the RLV-TD development program. It was launched from the first launchpad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre on 23 May 2016 at 7:00 AM local time onboard a HS9 solid rocket booster.

After a successful lift that lasted 91.1 seconds to a height of about 56 km, the RLV-TD separated from the HS9 booster and further ascended to a height of about 65 km. The RLV-TD then began its descent at about Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound). The vehicle's navigation, guidance and control systems accurately steered the vehicle during this phase for a controlled descent down to the defined landing spot over Bay of Bengal, at a distance of about 450 km from Sriharikota, thereby fulfilling its mission objectives. The vehicle was tracked during its flight from ground stations at Sriharikota and a shipborne terminal. The total flight duration from launch to splashdown lasted about 770 seconds.

In this flight, critical technologies such as autonomous navigation, guidance and control, and reusable thermal protection system, have been validated.

 

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