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Isro set to test space shuttle technology in July

23 May 2015

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is developing a reusable space vehicle and the first scaled-down model of the space shuttle will be test-launched towards the end of July.

"It is going to be an important engineering experiment for the Indian space agency. A small aero plane-shaped vehicle would be launched from Chennai some time during the second half of July," IANS quoted MYS Prasad, director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), as saying.

India launches its rockets from SDSC in Sriharikota, around 80 km from Chennai

The experimental vehicle would weigh around 1.5 tonnes and is only a scaled-down model of the actual vehicle that is expected to carry a satellite.

Officially known as the reusable launch vehicle (RLV-TD), the new vehicle is being developed to reduce the cost of access to space, which could come down to a tenth.

At present, the cost of placing 1kg of object in space for Isro is about Rs3 lakh (approximately $5,000), which scientists are hoping to be brought down to about $500 (Rs30,000).

The shuttle that will be driven by a single solid rocket booster with nine tonnes of propellants will initially be used in shuttles for unmanned missions. The spacecraft will be programmed to fly to a height of 70km after which it will descend back to earth and land safely in the Bay of Bengal.

The descent speed would be controlled through the fins on the machine. In order to protect the equipment from friction heat when it comes back, necessary protective tiles have been fixed.

About 600 heat-resistant carbon tiles are placed around the nose of the vehicle so that the spacecraft will be able to withstand a temperature of 1,200 degrees Celsius when it re-enters the atmosphere.

After landing, the spacecraft will sink to the bottom of the sea. For now, ISRO has no plans to recover it, apart from seeking the help of Indian Navy or Coast Guard in retrieving the shuttle.

Isro is expected to develop a reentry technology that would help the spacecraft land on a runway like a plane.

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