India Intelligence Report

Reusable Launch Vehicle being developed by ISRO


The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is designing a Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) to place satellites in orbit, reenter earth’s atmosphere, and use parachutes to land as an airplane. This development will substantially reduce cost of satellite launch, increase launch margins, and will make India a more attractive destination for the lucrative satellite launch business.

According to the annual report of ISRO, “conceptual design of auxiliary power systems” for RLV and “initiation of studies for the development of 2000 kN thrust semi-cryogenic engine” has started. Simultaneously, aerodynamic and baseline characterization, reference trajectory for the mission, avionics configuration, structural design and fabrication process studies have also been completed.  However, a host of other technologies will have to be developed. Specifically, metallurgical studies will get a major fillip, as the RLV must withstand reentry friction and speeds. Such technologies may also facilitate multiple spin-off technologies that can then be harnessed by the corporate world to increase their global competitiveness. This is the probably the first time that India has embarked on a visionary project way ahead of its competitors and developed world.

ISRO is planning a technology demonstrator experiment that will be part of the CARTOSAT-2 launch later this year. It will launch a recoverable 500-kilogram satellite as a co-passenger on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). This Space-Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE) will test reusable thermal protection system; navigation, guidance, and control; hypersonic aerodynamics; management of communication blackout; deceleration and flotation system; and recovery operations.

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