The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on Sunday successfully conducted an experiment that it said would propel the country forward in its goal of sending reusable rockets into space.
The space agency conducted the ‘Reusable Launch Vehicle Autonomous Landing Mission (RLV LEX)’ at the Aeronautical Test Range of the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in Karnataka’s Chitradurga district.
RLV’s autonomous approach and landing pic.twitter.com/D4tDmk5VN5
— ISRO (@isro) April 2, 2023
“India achieved it!,” the space agency wrote on Twitter. “ISRO, joined by @DRDO_India @IAF_MCC, successfully conducted the Reusable Launch Vehicle Autonomous Landing Mission (RLV LEX)… ”
According to ISRO, the RLV took off as the underslung load of a Chinook Helicopter of the Indian Air Force and, after reaching an altitude of 4.6 km, was released for carrying out an autonomous landing on a runway.
Such a technique has never been used before, the agency added.
ISRO said the experiment was carried out under the exact conditions of a space re-entry vehicle’s landing such as “high speed, unmanned, precise landing from the same return path”.
“(The experiment was conducted) as if the vehicle arrived from space,” he said.
ISRO chairman Dr S Somanath said the success of the experiment has edged India closer to having its own reusable rockets and landing craft for specific mission goals.
“The very first experiment (of the RLV landing experiment program) was successful. I am sure that it is meeting almost all the objectives of the landing experiment defined long back,” he said, adding it was a great opportunity for ISRO to develop an Orbital Landing Experiment.
The RLV is essentially a space plane with a low lift-to-drag ratio, requiring an approach at high glide angles that necessitated a landing at high velocities of 350 kmph. ISRO said the LEX utilized several indigenous systems.
“Localized Navigation systems based on pseudolite systems, instrumentation and sensor systems, etc were developed by ISRO… Adaptation of contemporary technologies developed for RLV LEX makes other operational launch vehicles of ISRO more cost-effective,” according to the space agency.
ISRO first demonstrated the re-entry of its winged vehicle RLV-TD in its HEX Mission in May 2016. During that experiment, the vehicle had landed on a hypothetical runway over the Bay of Bengal as “precise landing” on a runway was an aspect not included in the HEX mission. “The LEX mission achieved the final approach phase that coincided with the re-entry flight path exhibiting an autonomous, high-speed (350 kmph) landing,” ISRO said.
More experiments are in the pipeline to ensure that the RLV succeeds in payload delivery to low earth orbit, as ISRO plans to reduce the cost of the process by 80 per cent. The Return Flight Experiment and other related tests of the RLV are also being planned.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Sunday successfully conducted the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Autonomous Landing Mission (LEX) at the Aeronautical Test Range of the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in Karnataka’s Chitradurga.