ISRO to Launch Reusable Testbed Demonstrator

Fresh off delaying its human spaceflight program into the 2020s (news that India’s media barely seemed to notice), ISRO is now getting a lot of press for this much smaller, reusable test vehicle project. Although the science reporter in the video above compares this to the U.S. space shuttle, this is really a relatively small testbed for evaluating new technologies. This print report is a bit more accurate:

The design of the winged vehicle by Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), the Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), has been approved by the National Review Committee. An Isro official said design-related issues have been addressed and presented to the National Review Committee and clearance obtained to go ahead to build the RLV-TD.

The space agency, as a first step towards realising a Two-Stage To Orbit (TSTO) re-usable launch vehicle, has developed a winged RLV-TD. The RLV-TD will act as a flying test-bed to evaluate various technologies — hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air breathing propulsion. The first in the series of trials is the hypersonic flight experiment (HEX) followed by the landing experiment (LEX), return flight experiment (REX) and scramjet propulsion experiment (SPEX).

It will be interesting to see just how quickly something like this develops. ISRO tends to work slowly and steadily.