Reusable Launch Vehicle

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    • ISRO is aiming to carry out a landing experiment (LEX), a critical component of the Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstration (RLV-TD) programme, in the next few days.

    About Reusable Launch Vehicle

    • Meaning:
      • A reusable launch system is a launch system that allows for the reuse of some or all of the component stages.
      • The vehicle returns to earth intact after a mission.
    • The experiment:
      • RLV-LEX involves taking an unmanned, winged prototype to an altitude of about 2.3 km to 2.4 km on a helicopter and releasing it to land.
      • It must travel the distance autonomously, gain velocity, maintain control and come in like any typical aircraft, touching down with the rear wheels first.
    • Phases:
      • The first in the series of experimental flights is the hypersonic flight experiment (HEX) followed by the landing experiment (LEX), return flight experiment (REX) and scramjet propulsion experiment (SPEX).
    • Benefits of RLV:
      • Cheaper access to space is what makes an RLV attractive: A major hurdle in space exploration is the prohibitive cost, which can be slashed if the launch vehicle is a reusable one.
    • Challenges of RLV:
      • Extra weight: Reusable stages weigh more than equivalent expendable stages. This is unavoidable due to the supplementary systems, landing gear and/or surplus propellant needed to land a stage.
      • Refurbishment: After the launcher lands, it may need to be refurbished to prepare it for its next flight. This process may be lengthy and expensive. The launcher may not be able to be recertified as human-rated after refurbishment.
    • RLV Orbital re-entry Experiment (ORE):
      • ISRO is working on ORE.
      • In ORE, a wing body called Orbital Reentry vehicle (ORV) will be taken to an orbit by an ascent vehicle derived from the existing GSLV and PSLV stages and stay in orbit for a stipulated period, re-enter and land in a runway autonomously with a landing gear.

    Source: TH