ISRO’s Reusable Launch Vehicle Achieves Third Successful Landing Amidst Strong Winds

ISRO Successfully Conducts Third Reusable Launch Vehicle Landing Experiment

ISRO achieved success for the third consecutive time with its Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Landing Experiment (LEX) today, June 23. The vehicle executed a precise horizontal landing using advanced autonomous capabilities amidst strong winds.

Final Landing Test in Challenging Conditions

The third and final landing test was conducted at 7:10 AM in Chitradurga, Karnataka. The first landing experiment took place on April 2, 2023, and the second on March 22, 2024. Following the success of the RLV LEX-01 and RLV LEX-02 missions, the RLV LEX-03 demonstrated autonomous landing capabilities under more challenging conditions.

Deployment from a Chinook Helicopter

The RLV was carried to an altitude of 4.5 km by an Indian Air Force Chinook helicopter at the Aeronautical Test Range in Chitradurga and released for autonomous landing on the runway. During the LEX-2 experiment, the vehicle was dropped from a cross range of 150 meters, which was increased to 500 meters this time, amid stronger winds.

Autonomous Landing Achievements

The RLV executed a cross-range correction maneuver and achieved a precise horizontal landing. Upon release from the helicopter, its landing velocity exceeded 320 km/h, which is higher than the typical landing velocities of commercial aircraft (260 km/h) and fighter jets (280 km/h). After touchdown, the velocity was reduced to 100 km/h.

Braking Mechanisms and Stability

The velocity was decreased with the help of brake parachutes installed on the vehicle. Following this, landing gear brakes were applied, bringing the vehicle to a halt on the runway. The RLV uses rudder and nose wheel steering systems to stabilize itself on the runway.

ISRO’s RLV: A Reusable Launch Vehicle Like NASA’s Space Shuttle

ISRO’s Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) is designed to function similarly to NASA’s Space Shuttle. Upon completion around 2030, this winged spacecraft will be capable of transporting over 10,000 kg of payload to low Earth orbit, enabling the deployment of satellites at a reduced cost.

Comparison with NASA’s Space Shuttle

NASA launched its first Space Shuttle mission in 1981, with the final mission taking place in 2011. Post-2011, NASA relied on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft for sending astronauts to the space station. Currently, private space agency SpaceX’s spacecraft are used for these missions.

NASA’s Space Shuttle technology was the world’s first reusable spacecraft technology, capable of carrying large satellites to and from orbit. NASA operated six Space Shuttles: Challenger, Columbia, Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavour, and Enterprise. Challenger and Columbia were lost in accidents, while the remaining Shuttles are preserved in museums. Enterprise never flew in space.

Understanding Reusable Technology

Space missions consist of two primary components: the rocket and the attached spacecraft. The rocket’s purpose is to transport the spacecraft into space, after which the rocket is usually discarded into the ocean, making it non-reusable. This was the standard practice worldwide for many years, which led to the development of reusable rockets.

The concept behind reusable rockets is to recover the expensive rocket boosters used for launching spacecraft, allowing them to be refueled and reused. Elon Musk’s SpaceX pioneered this technology, beginning work on it in 2011. By 2015, SpaceX had developed the Falcon 9 rocket, which was designed to be reusable.

When Will ISRO’s Vehicle Be Ready?

ISRO first tested its Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) in May 2016, named the Hypersonic Flight Experiment (HEX). In the HEX mission, ISRO demonstrated the re-entry of its winged vehicle, RLV-TD. With the completion of the Landing Experiment (LEX), upcoming experiments include the Return Flight Experiment (REX) and the Scramjet Propulsion Experiment (SPEX).

Experts anticipate that ISRO’s vehicle will be ready to fly by 2030. In the future, this vehicle will be prepared for the first stage of India’s reusable two-stage orbital launch vehicle. According to ISRO, the configuration of RLV-TD is similar to that of an aircraft, combining the complexities of both launch vehicles and aircraft.

Arvind Amble

My name is Arvind Amble. As a tech enthusiast and writer, I'm fascinated by the ever-evolving world of technology, AI, IOS, Android, Software & Apps, and Digital Marketing. With a keen eye for emerging trends and a passion for innovation, I bring a fresh perspective to my writing, blending technical expertise with a creative flair.