ISRO Chief Kiran Kumar is thrilled to create India’s own space shuttle

The idea to make reusable rockets a reality is to cut down the cost of access to space by at least 10 times

ISRO Chief Kiran Kumar. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The stepping stones of ISRO (Indian space research organisation) were laid by none other than our own beloved Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. After deploying its own GPS system through NAVIC, ISRO (India’s version of NASA) is all set to achieve another milestone in the field of space and technology. India is going to launch its own indigenous Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV). According to if this attempt becomes a success then the cost of access to space will decline significantly by 10 times.

What does RLV mean ?

RLV is a mechanism of launching which intends to bring down the cost of launch. Initially, a series of technology demonstrations will take place followed by the testing of HEX-01 (also called winged body). ISRO chairman Kiran Kumar explains the whole mechanism of this upcoming experiment. He further elucidates that HEX-01 will be launched from Sriharikota Island. After coming back from space it will be guided by satellites and radars to make it land in the Bay of Bengal. However, the final winged body will land on Sriharikota Islands only (i.e. on land only).

Vikas engine of ISRO, Wikimedia commons
Vikas engine of ISRO, Wikimedia commons
  • K Sivan, director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram said “These are just the first baby steps towards the big Hanuman leap. The final version will take at least 10-15 years to get ready since designing a human-rated reusable rocket is no kid stuff.
  • Apart from America, no other superpowers have attempted operational flights.
    • The US flew its space shuttle 135 times and then retired in 2011. It is said that it lost its capacity afterwards to send astronauts into space.
    • Russians made only a single space shuttle called ‘Buran’ which flew into space once in 1989.
    • French and Japanese made some experimental flights, though.
    • However, Chinese have never even attempted a space shuttle.
  • Indian space shuttle or RLV-TD began its construction nearly 5 years ago. Our government has invested nearly RS 95 Crores in this project. The capability of the vehicle to survive a re-entry at velocities more than that of a supersonic range will be tested by the flight. That is the reason this experiment has also been named as Hyper Sonic Experiment (HEX). Later RLV will be tested for another return flight experiment. After successful completion of these experiments, ISRO will plan the final configuration of the upcoming Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV).
  • Scientists have even developed a material called ‘Indian space plane’. This will help in protecting the exterior surface of the shuttle from the friction caused heat while entering earth’s atmosphere (this temperature goes up to 5000-700 degrees Celsius). This thermal coating failure was the reason due to which the American space shuttle (Columbia) crashed which lead to the death of Kalpana Chawla in 2003. Hence, ISRO is emphasising on the thermal management.
  • Scientists have worked hard in making this dream come true. ISRO’s aim is to have its own ‘swadeshi space shuttle’. Sooner or later the RLV will be renamed as ‘Kalyanam’ after India’s famous former president Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (a legendary aeronautical engineer and rocket scientist) who dreamt of making India into a developed nation.
Former President - Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Wikimedia commons
Former President – Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Wikimedia commons
  • Given the vast potential which lies within our very own ISRO, we all hope this project becomes a success where all other superpowers have failed.
  • Even though the whole world is silent in attempting winged flights, ISRO’s main motto behind all this is bringing down the overall cost of building space infrastructures. This way scientists at ISRO believe that their capability will increase significantly.

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-Prepared by Pritam

Pritam is a 3rd year engineering student in B.P. Poddar institute of management and technology, Kolkata.

You can reach the author at @pritam_gogreen