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ISRO successfully conducts autonomous landing of country’s first reusable rocket


The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has made significant progress in its pursuit of reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) by successfully completing the Reusable Launch Vehicle Autonomous Landing Mission (RLV LEX). The trial took place at the Aeronautical Test Range in Chitradurga, Karnataka, and involved a winged body being lifted to an altitude of 4.5 km by an Indian Air Force Chinook helicopter before being released to execute an independent landing on a runway.  The RLV LEX is essentially a space plane with a low lift-to-drag ratio, necessitating a high-speed approach at 350 kmph during the landing.

The autonomous landing simulated the conditions of a space re-entry vehicle’s landing, achieving critical landing parameters such as precise body rates, landing gear sink rate, and ground relative velocity. To successfully complete the RLV LEX, several state-of-the-art technologies were required, including accurate navigation hardware and software, a Pseudolite system, a Ka-band Radar Altimeter, a NavIC receiver, indigenous landing gear, Aerofoil honeycomb fins, and a brake parachute system.

The Integrated Navigation test was conducted in 2019, followed by numerous Engineering Model Trials and Captive Phase tests in subsequent years. In a tweet on Sunday, ISRO wrote, “India  achieved it! ISRO, joined by @DRDO_India  @IAF_MCC , successfully conducted the Reusable Launch Vehicle Autonomous Landing Mission (RLV LEX) at the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR), Chitradurga, Karnataka in the early hours on April 2, 2023.”

The Indian Air Force, Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC), Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), and Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE) collaborated with ISRO to carry out the test. Secretary of the Department of Space and ISRO Chairman S Somanath were among the officials who observed the test.

ISRO Chairman Dr. S Somanath said, “the very first experiment (of the RLV landing experiment programme) was successful. I am sure that it is meeting almost all the objectives of the landing experiment defined long back,” further adding that it was a great opportunity for ISRO to develop an Orbital Landing Experiment.

The RLV LEX mission’s success signifies a substantial step forward for India’s space program, as ISRO plans to reduce the cost of payload delivery to low Earth orbit by 80%. The Return Flight Experiment and other related tests of the RLV are being planned to ensure the vehicle’s success in payload delivery.


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