- India successfully tests indigenous space shuttle
- Built by team of 600 scientists at a cost of Rs 95 crore over 5 years
- It will help reduce cost of launching objects into space by 10 times
Here are 10 must-know facts about the big launch:
The 6.5 metre-long scale model of the re-usable launch vehicle weighs about 1.75 tonnes and was made at a cost of Rs. 95 crore. It was built at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram by a team of 600 scientists over five years.
Re-usable technology aims to help reduce the cost of launching objects into space by 10 times. It costs about $ 20,000 to send a kilogram in space currently.
Indian Space Research Organization or ISRO plans to test two more such prototypes before the final version which will be about six times larger at around 40 metres and will take off around 2030.
After the test flight was declared successful, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated scientists at ISRO and tweeted: “Launch of India's first indigenous space shuttle RLV-TD is the result of the industrious efforts of our scientists. Congrats to them.”
The spacecraft was launched atop a nine-ton rocket engine that has been designed to burn slowly to accommodate vertical lifting of a winged body.
After the launch, the space shuttle flew to an altitude of 70 kilometres and then engaged in a free-gliding flight that started with an initial velocity five times that of sound. It then landed on a stretch of water in the Bay of Bengal some 500 kilometres from Sriharikota.
This was the first time that ISRO flew a winged body and brought it back to land on a make-shift runway. In further tests, an undercarriage will be placed to make it land, possibly at Sriharikota.
The final RLV will be about 40 meters in length and will also be able carry Indian astronauts. On this first flight, the RLV-TD will not be recovered but the data collected will be used to improve the designs, paving the runway to the final model.
No other country is currently operationally flying a winged spacecraft into space - the US retired its space shuttles in 2011 and the Russians flew theirs only once in 1989.
In a race to master re-usable technology for space shuttles, the RLV will be pitted against the likes of SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Blue Origin's New Shephard rocket - both the companies have already partially tested re-usable space shuttles.