Potential delay for first test flight of India's spaceplane demonstrator

Artist's concept of the RLV-TD spaceplane
Artist's concept of the RLV-TD spaceplane
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Artist's concept of the RLV-TD spaceplane
Artist's concept of the RLV-TD spaceplane

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) may have to delay the first test flight of its experimental Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) spaceplane. The unmanned sub-orbital spacecraft, which is similar in design to the US Air Force's X-37B, was scheduled to be launched in February, but technical difficulties may put back the flight to the first week of April.

According to a report in the New Indian Express, a minor leak in the flight systems of the RLV-TD led to the potential setback. K Sivan, director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), where the craft is being developed, told the paper that the spacecraft needed to be reassembled, which could cause a significant delay if more problems occur.

The RLV-TD is a two-stage scaled prototype of India's Avatar spacecraft designed to drastically reduce the cost of launching payloads into orbit from US$5,000 per kilogram (2.2 lb) to US$500. RLV-TD is a winged technology demonstrator for testing flight and propulsion systems that will allow the completed Avatar to return to Earth for a controlled landing like a conventional aircraft.

A series of flights of the will test the RLV-TD's ability to carry out hypersonic flight, landings, return flight, and scramjet propulsion before a full-sized vehicle is built. The demonstrator will lift off atop a conventional rocket booster, which will accelerate it to Mach 5 (3,800 mph, 6,125 km/h). After separation, the winged craft will coast to an altitude of 100 km (62 mi) before making a controlled reentry.

When the atmosphere is thick enough, the flight surfaces take over and the RLV-TD will glide to the recovery area for a splashdown in the Bay of Bengal. The sea recovery is necessary because the spaceplane requires a 5 km- (3.1 mi-) long runway, which India does not currently possess.

This is the third delay for the program, which had an initial launch date in mid-2015.

Source: ISRO

Your own spaceplane, India, really? Hadn't you better try and feed the hundreds of millions of starving people in your country, or build a domestic fighter jet that is fit for actual service in your airforce?
Racqia Dvorak
It amazes me that they can't build a 3 mile long runway. Seriously have to do a sea landing because you can't knuckle down and expand a military runway by a couple miles? Tells me this thing is already underfunded.
Good grief. the Biggest problem is can't a 3 mile landing strip. Simply close off a straight highway when it is ready to land.
Jose Gros
Why not an 'Space Shuttle' made of concrete? Cement was shown withstanding temperatures above 1000º C for hours in some building fires, and in ship making, above 10 metres of lenght, and with a wall thickness of 7 cm, concrete is competitive in buoyancy to hull weight ratio to traditional steel or wooden ships. Prices of these materials are unknown to me. In concrete boatbulding, to finish a small standard fisheries ship, 72 h of continued work and a team of 60 persons are needed (FAO fisheries data). The Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences in Germany even built succesfully a car of concrete, see: 'A car made of concrete -And it works!', 'The Indian Concrete Journal', 2004, pags 43 and 44. Of course, not all climates are good for cement setting, and it was recently discovered that the ability of Roman concrete to emerge well after thousands of years under Sea water was due to its formulation with volcano ashes.
Brian M
A most convenient inconvenience I think!
Silicon is 10x stronger than concrete, and handles 1600 degrees... neither is exactly "light" though...
Douglas Bennett Rogers
The cost of the 3 mi. runway could easily be folded into the program cost. The cost of launching the concrete defeats the savings of materials cost many times over. Maybe this could use the original Space Shuttle concept of a short range turbojet for landing. Then could use regular airport for powered landing.
Edgar Walkowsky
@mhpr262 It's projects like this that can help alleviate poverty in India. They provide work and eventually profit for ISRO that goes back into the economy.
Really?! The country can't manage to have toilets or a workable sanitation system, but they can have a rocket.
Don Duncan
I oppose all public works, i.e., theft (tax) to pay for a bureaucrats pet projects. That said, this is less onerous than weapons, especially nukes. This and a lot more could be paid for easily by a "Hong Kong" business policy, i.e., a free market economy. The irony is that even the corrupt politicians/bureaucrats would benefit financially, if only they could loosen their stranglehold on business. Power, once given is very addictive, so I know it will never be given up willingly. The public must force change, e.g., give the power back to innovators/entrepreneurs, where it belongs. Of course, that would go agains the world trend of authoritarianism. Too bad for the world.