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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

India's Space Shuttle [Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV)] program - some information

Dr. B.N. Suresh, then Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center [VSSC] had made presentations where he spoke about India's Reusable Launch Vehicle program [India's Space Shuttle].
Posting the relevant presentation slides here for information.

Roadmap & Timeline of India's Space Launch Vehicle programs
Some more information about the Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator [RLV-TD] in yesterdays post that I added towards the end of the post.
The December 2007 issue of Current Science had this about India's Space Shuttle program in general & the Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator [RLV-TD] in particular,
"The RLV aims to bring down the cost of placing a kg of payload into orbit by an order, through reuse of the vehicle systems. For an Expendable Launch Vehicle (ELV), the cost of launching one kg to LEO is approximately $10,000-15,000. This is due to the fact that 67% of the ELV cost is that of its hardware, which is expended. Also, for an ELV the payload fraction is approximately 1–2%. In an RLV, attempts will be made to reuse all systems. With an airbreathing engine as first stage the payload fraction can be improved to as high as 4%. Application of these technologies would bring down the launch cost by an order of magnitude.
Extensive studies on configuration options for Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO)/Two Stage to Orbit (TSTO) have concluded that with the current levels of technologies of propulsion and materials only a TSTO is feasible. Towards realizing the TSTO and associated new technologies, ISRO has undertaken the development of a Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator. It has a wing-body configuration and will be capable of flying in a corridor similar to that of the first stage of a TSTO-RLV. Actually, it is a scaled down version of the first stage of TSTO-RLV. Its return flight will have high angles of attack in the upper atmosphere, in order to reduce the kinetic energy, before reaching lower altitudes. It will use aerodynamic controls during the atmospheric flight. The entire flight will be autonomous, similar to that of the first stage of the TSTO-RLV. This RLV-TD will be designed using available technologies to start with, and progressively will adopt and test new technologies. In a brief period of about 3-6 years, RLV-TD will prove, in a cost effective way, advanced technologies that are required for taking decisions regarding the route to be followed for design and development of the full scale TSTO-RLV.
Some of the technologies to be perfected through these trials are related to hypersonic aerothermodynamics, reusable thermal protection systems, design of reusable structures including control surfaces, autonomous flight management, and NGC for re-entry and controlled descent, inflight health monitoring system, and abort systems."
Thus, taking the highlighted portion into account, the completion dated to the RLV-TD phase of the programme would be around 2015. This would match the date of 2016 mentioned in Dr. Suresh's slide. The Hypersonic Flight Experiment [HEX] is scheduled to be conducted in 2011. Since there was a news report recently on TV, it could be taken as a sign indicating that the test could be conducted in the immediate near future - hopefully within this year or the early part of the next [nooooooo!] year.
So, as the slide above indicates, 2020 [add a year or two to it, just to be safe] could be when India's own Space Shuttle, a Two Stage To Orbit Reusable Launch Vehicle would become operational, possibly making its maiden flight, followed by some more time before it is used for serious launches.
India's Space capsule Recovery Experiment [SRE] for manned Space missions & Space Shuttle program
As part of the process to prove the technologies to be incorporated into the Space Craft, ISRO had conducted the Space capsule Re-entry Experiment [SRE] in 2007. The test had been conducted to observe the effect and survivability of the heat shields upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, among other features & technologies. These heat shield tiles would later be used to cover the outer surface of the Shuttle & also the modules to be used in India's future manned mission.