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A Milestone in India's Space Research - ISRO's Reusable Launch Vehicle - Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) Successfully Flight Tested

India joins the most elite space group with the three other only countries in the world – USA, Russ...

👤 Dr R Jagannathan1 Jun 2016 7:14 AM GMT
A Milestone in Indias Space Research - ISROs Reusable Launch Vehicle - Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) Successfully Flight Tested
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India joins the most elite space group with the three other only countries in the world – USA, Russia and Japan.

Space Exploration and Technology

From time immemorial, the sky has fascinated mankind. Our ancestors used the stars to know time and direction during the night. Man's space explorations over the centuries have contributed societal benefits that improved the quality of life on earth. Space explorations provide the following consequential benefits:

· critical knowledge and capabilities for developing satellite telecommunications.

  1. · global positioning, and advances in weather forecasting.
  2. · development of solar panels, to discovery of lightweight materials.
  3. ·
    invention of implantable heart monitors, to progressive research in cancer therapy.
  4. · waterpurification systems, to improved computing systems, and
  5. · global searchandrescue systems.

Space technology has helped in higher performance at lower cost in areas such as power generation, control engineering and miniaturisation.

Space exploration and technology help in better understanding of our Universe and the solar system in which we live. Knowledge, coupled with ingenuity, provides solutions as well as useful products and services to the people around the globe. Knowledge acquired from space exploration has also provided new perspectives about our individual and collective place and role in the Universe.

PSLV and GSLV Satellites

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), formed on 15th August 1969 superseded the erstwhile Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) of 1962. ISRO directly reports to Prime Minister of India.

ISRO like any other rocket-producing country has two varieties of rocket launch vehicles, the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) and the GSLV (Geo Stationery Launch Vehicle). These rockets are vehicles used to launch satellites.

The PSLVs launch satellites in polar orbits. These satellites go round the poles at an altitude of 400-900 kilometres and take about 90 minutes to go round the earth once. These satellites are useful for monitoring the precise movement of cyclones, forest fires, floods and army patrols. They are capable of taking photographs from a 2-metre resolution onwards.

The GSLVs launch satellites at an altitude of about 36,000 kilometres. They appear stationary in position. These satellites help us establish mobile communication, TV telecasts, medical conferencing, tele-consultations, and robotic surgeries, to name a few. Only India and five other countries in the world, viz. USA, Russia, France, Japan and China, have the capability so far, to launch the types of satellites, as described in the these paragraphs.

The Concept of the Re-usable Launch Vehicle

About 70% of the cost for launching a low earth orbit satellite and about 60% of the cost for launching a geo-stationery satellite, go into making the launching vehicle, viz. the rocket, which finally falls back into the sea or get burnt in the atmosphere after every launch. Re-usable Launch Vehicles – RLVs are launch rockets that can be re-used for launch, thus bringing down the cost to as much as 10% of the present cost.

On 2nd July 1999 USA tested its first RLV successfully. The American Space Shuttles are a consequence from this first test. The only countries in the world to have this RLV technology were USA, Russia and Japan. When ISRO successfully flight-tested the RLV-Technology Demonstrator on May 23rd, 2016, it was a proud day for India as it joined the exclusive club with these other three countries. It is noteworthy that India achieved this test within 17 years of USA's maiden test in 1999. The entire mission was executed successfully as planned and programmed by the ISRO scientists. All the requisite technical standards were precisely adhered to. It was indeed a good text-book launch.

Dr Abdul Kalam's Vision

This mission which is futuristic and crucial for India's future space mission by significantly cutting down the launch cost, was envisioned by APJ Abdul Kalam nearly 3 decades ago.

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, then Director of Defence Research & Development Laboratory (DRDL) at Hyderabad, had said that Indian scientists were capable of developing a futuristic "Hyperplane" which could lower the satellite launch cost for India. The Hyperplane or Hypersonic platform which Kalam visualised, could take off from any airport for an air-breathing ascent to near earth orbit, then enter space for a satellite launch or contact with an orbiting space station and finally return to earth for a horizontal landing.

Thumbs up to the Indian Space Mission and its Vision and Mission!

Graphics courtesy: idrw.org

By Prof R. Jagannathan, Editorial Advisor, PreSense