The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will test-launch a small aeroplane-shaped space launch vehicle sometime this year, as part of its long-term programme to develop a reusable space shuttles, a senior Isro official said.
"We will test a small aeroplane-shaped vehicle - reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator - weighing around 1.7 tonnes soon. The vehicle will travel up to 70 km and will return," reports quoted K Sivan, director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, as saying.
Isro had, in July last year, experimented with a scaled down model of the pane-shaped vehicle, weighing around 1.5 tonnes – the actual vehicle that is expected to carry a satellite will weigh many times this.
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.
Reusable vehicles will greatly reduce the cost of launching satellites as these can be used for their lifetime with little changes. It is estimated that the cost of placing 1kg object in space is about Rs3 lakh ($5,000), which scientists say, can be brought down to about Rs30,000 ($500) with reusable launch vehicles.
In the previous experiment, after landing, the spacecraft sank to the bottom of the sea. Isro is future is expected to develop a reentry technology that would help the spacecraft land on a runway like a plane.