India has taken a huge step forward in its space programme, by successfully testing the country’s first space shuttle. Just yesterday, May 23, the 1.75-tonne Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) first took off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre on the island of Sriharikota at 7 a.m, and reached an altitude of around 43 miles, as reported by Independent UK.
The RLV is, however, just a scale model – at around seven metres long, roughly a sixth of the size of the proposed final version. A spokesperson for ISRO, India’s space agency, told Mint newspaper, that the “mission has been accomplished and all the parameters and trajectories were fulfilled.”
President Pranab Mukherjee applauded the successful demonstration by tweeting “Hearty congratulations to our space scientists at Isro on successful launch of India’s first ever indigenous space shuttle RLV-TD.”
“We are not even looking at landing,” said K. Sivan, director of Isro’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre. “This is more of an experiment to see whether we are able to achieve certain conditions on flight. We need a vehicle that can come from a speed of Mach 25 to Mach Zero, has material that can survive very high temperatures and also test our own mission management software.”
Kivan added that many such experiments will be carried out in the future and that the final reusable launch vehicle will not be ready for another decade.
ISRO is currently the only national space agency actively working on shuttle technology. Nasa’s Space Shuttle was retired in 2011, while Russia’s shuttle programme ended shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, reports Mint.