Reusable Launch Vehicle


This technology can be seen as an example of ‘Make in India’. Also, it can help India to achieve massive heights in the field of space. Hence, it is important from the UPSC perspective.

What is Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology?

  • RLV-TD(technology demonstrator) was successfully flight tested by the ISRO, validating the critical technologies such as autonomous navigation, guidance & control, reusable thermal protection system and re-entry mission management.
  • A reusable launch system (RLS, or reusable launch vehicle, RLV) is a system capable of launching a payload into space more than once.
  • The model is 6.5 metres long and weighs about 1,750 kg and design is that of a delta-winged aircraft.
  • The working RLV will be about 40 metres long and it will need a five km-long landing runway. It might be 2030 before it is fully operational.
  • It demonstrated the success of hypersonic flight, re-entry aero thermodynamics, autonomous mission management and hot structures for thermal protection.

More about the RLV Technology

  1. The cost of access to space is the major deterrent in space exploration and space utilization. RLV is the solution to achieve low cost, reliable and on-demand space access.
  2. RLV-TD is part of a series of technology demonstration missions that have been considered as a first step towards realizing a Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) fully reusable vehicle.
  3. The configuration of RLV-TD is similar to that of an aircraft and combines the complexity of both launch vehicles and aircraft.
  4. A Winged RLV-TD has been configured to act as a flying test bed to evaluate technologies like hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion.
  5. These technologies will be developed in phases through a series of experimental flights. The first in the series of experimental flights is the hypersonic flight experiment (HEX) followed by the landing experiment (LEX), return flight experiment (REX) and scramjet propulsion experiment (SPEX).

What is Hypersonic Technology and SCRAMJET Engine?

  1. Hypersonic aviation technology involves speeds greater than 5 mach.
  2. To fly at hypersonic speed a different type of engine such as a supersonic-combustion ramjet, or scramjet is required.
  3. Unlike in a jet engine where the rotating compressor and turbine are used, in a scramjet engine air is compressed and expanded by complex systems of shockwaves under the front of the aircraft, inside the inlet and under the fuselage at the rear.
  4. It uses oxygen from the atmosphere for fuel.
  5. This makes it lighter and faster than fuel-carrying rockets, making it an alternative to rockets for putting satellites into space.
  6. It will also help making air travel in earth’s atmosphere faster and cheaper.

Ultimate Aim & Advantages of the RLV

  1. Ultimate Aim & Advantages of the RLV would be to send manned missions, including satellites into space and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere without extreme P and Heat condition (T)
    1. Successful launch of RLV will have a huge impact on launching cost – will slash it down by 80% – RLV aims to achieve a low cost, reliable and on-demand space access
    2. Future Moon and Mars missions, Inter-Planetary missions
  2. Make India competitive Space player globally in terms of cheap affordable satellite launched (for LDCs), regular and periodic space missions and various space exercises like building its own Space Station in future similar to ISS, Tiangong-1
  3. India will join select league of nations – Only USA (Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour, Atlantis), Russia (Soyuz) & China (Shenzhou) have their own Space flights. After successful induction of RLV, India will also have its own manned spacecraft capability.

Q.) ‘India is going after Reusable Launch Vehicle, even when Space Agencies like NASA have stopped using them.’ Discuss.



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